When I was a very young woman I kneeled on the carpet in my living room and prayed for patience. In all His infinite wisdom, The Good Lord answered my prayer and humorously gifted me with three boys.
Touché God, touché.
I often joke and say that I should have been more careful about what I prayed for, but seriously, there really is nothing in the world that develops more patience in an introspective female than a house full of testosterone.
The best way to describe raising three little males is that it epitomizes that old saying about trying to herd cats, it’s difficult and all over the place.
I did try and off-set their balled up fists and random, unnecessary shoves with activities that I hoped would make them more well-rounded, like when I’d yell at them to “kennel up” and take them to the plant store.
They actually kind of loved the plant store. They’d get to wear their rubber boots, traipse through wet potting soil, turn over pots in search of snails, all while being followed by a big stinky dog that belonged to the owner. I’d point out the names of different blooming flowers, let them rub their cheeks with the leaves of lamb’s ear, show them the Baby Moses inside the plant my grandmother called A Wandering Jew, and let them grind herbs between their back teeth (their favorite was spearmint because it “tasted like toothpaste).
Through the years the store eventually grew smaller, and so did my day-time brood of boys, as the older ones made their way into classrooms and I was left with only the youngest at home. He and I still loaded up though, when the seasons began to change, and made our way to buy plants.
Once, when he was around four, we made a purchase and waited while our trays were being loaded into the back of my car. I took my son’s hand and we strolled around while I showed him loose seeds that were displayed in baskets near the check out counter. I stopped when we got to the tiniest, perfectly round seeds I’d ever seen. The basket read “Mustard.”
“Look,” I said as I gathered a few on the end of my finger, “the Bible says that if we have faith even as big as one of these that we can move a mountain.”
My son stood for a moment let go of my hand and began shoveling fistfuls of the mustard seeds into the front pockets of his faded Levi’s.
“No!” I said frantically, “What are you doing? Those don’t belong to us!”
“But I wanna move mountains too,” he said in a voice that was steady, and determined, and held no doubt that those seeds would do what God promised.
Needless to say he got to keep them.
He graduates from high school next Thursday.
That’s the thing about little boys, they walk through the door one day and you notice that they are full-grown men who worry as much about their mother’s well-being as she does about theirs.
Which is nice, but part of me wishes I could go back and do it all over again, beginning at that spot on the carpet where I prayed so long ago and properly thank God for what he was already preparing to teach me.
It turns out patience is not acquired in an abracadabra kind of moment. It comes from barreling head first through circumstances we didn’t see coming, precious and irreplaceable, and from moments that are sowed and cultivated in our minds. Patience is something that blooms from unexpected events that tear at our guts and make us want to be better.
Oswald Chambers who was a great Chaplain for young men during WW1 once said that “patience is not indifference; patience conveys the idea of an immensely strong rock withstanding all onslaughts. The vision of God is the source of patience, because it imparts a moral inspiration.”
I think a pocket full of faith may do the same thing.
God certainly used it to inspire me, watching my son in red rubber boots demonstrate to me what belief really is.
To be a better person, we must honestly believe we can be a better person, because God gave us a model of the best person and said be like Him.
Doubt should not be involved, but if there is doubt He can move that too, even if it’s so high we can’t see over it, like a mountain.
He is not indifferent, He is patient, and He is moral even when we are difficult and all over the place.
He also likes to plant things and then watch as they flourish into something that looks an awful lot like fruit, or maybe branches on a vine.
He is the Master Gardener of all that’s good and grows, especially those things that can only be grown inside the heart.