1. able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

I’ve been an illustrator for a long time. Long enough to remember using older tools of the commercial artist’s craft. Stuff like Rubylith, rubber cement, Benzine, waxing machines, frisket, Letraset, stat cameras, and opaque projectors.

All this stuff is still available, I suppose. One thing traditional materials had in common was they took time and patience to use. Everything in that list would have been a time-saver in its day, but using any of it now would seem quite time consuming.

I was reminded this morning how exasperating it can be to watch the beach ball on my Mac spin endlessly, sometimes for a solid half-minute. Applying a filter on a large file destined for print may indeed take several seconds.

Not that many years ago if I wanted a gradient background on an image, I would apply transparent low contact film (frisket) over a drawing on illustration board, carefully cut around the areas to be masked with an xacto knife, whose blade I might have to change mid-course, slowly peel the film away from the areas to be painted, load my airbrush with a good mixture of color and water (not too thin, not too thick), fire up the compressor, carefully spray the exposed art, let it dry, peel away the excess frisket, grumpily notice the area I forgot to  mask, mutter an unpleasant word, touch up that goofed area, clean the airbrush thoroughly, and then proceed on to the rest of the painting.

It took longer than several seconds.

Patient Grace 

The same place I was reminded  about the exasperating beach ball was in a gathering this morning of several hundred people. I was a couple rows behind three folks I see almost every week. A man, his wife, and their adult son. Their son always sits between them. I’ll guess their son is close to forty years old, and he has always lived with his parents. He’s not a moocher who simply won’t move out. He has Down’s syndrome.

I love sitting near this family because I love being in the presence of grace. They draw no attention to themselves. Like all gracious people, these parents don’t think themselves exceptional.

They sit, as they’ve sat for forty years, patiently patting their son’s back, tenderly touching his face, gently calming his fidgety hands, and gladly worshipping the One who gave them this precious gift.

They accept delays without becoming annoyed. I don’t know how the spinning beach ball affects them, but I’ll wager it doesn’t bother them the way it bothers me.


There is a kind of impatience that is good. Longing for justice to flow like water, for cruelty to end, for slaves to be freed, chains to be broken and hunger to be satisfied are right things to want right now.  When relief is delayed, patience is necessary, but wanting that relief is a right desire. This is the deep cry of the soul that rings out from so many psalms and songs of lament.

Most of my impatience has little to do with justice, cruelty, bondage, or even hunger. My impatience is mostly the petty demand that I quickly get more of what I already have. I’ve never been truly hungry a day in my life, but I’ll sniff at the slowness of the fast food worker who is taking eight seconds too long to process my order.

I can travel more distance in one day than my great-great ancestors likely ever ventured in their lives, but I’ll grow exceedingly annoyed at a driver whose legalistic adherence to the speed limit is adding five minutes to my journey.

Impatience reveals a lot about how I think about myself and others. What am I really thinking about the fast food worker and that pokey driver?

Do I want them to regard me, the competent professional, as a superior person whose need for instantaneous food takes priority over their dreams and aspirations? Do I want that driver in front of (or behind) me to somehow divine the exact speed they should drive in order to enhance my personal automotive experience?

Smug superiority (pride) is only one flaw revealed in my lack of patience. Anxiety is another.

Suffice to say that if I sever a toe while mowing the lawn, I’ll be rightly anxious to get to the hospital. Yet, I’ve never mowed my toe, and the vast majority of my anxious moments occur when I think (fear), I’m getting the short end of some desired stick. Patience quietly waits for the long end, supposing the long end is really what I need in the first place.

Impatience frets and fumes over slights, short ends, imagined affronts, and delayed gratifications.

White iris

What’s so Whimsical About Patience?

The iris photos were taken at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I visit the Gardens every Spring to take in the beautiful irises. This is my official beginning of Spring. Spring is something we wait for, and for which we are able to do nothing to speed its arrival. The flowers bloom when they bloom and I can’t fume “Come ON!” in exasperation.

When the irises burst forth, I don’t sniff at their delay. They come at the right time and they always thrill. That I had to wait of full year for their return is nothing compared to the beauty they bring to that moment.

Irises look like patience. They don’t toil, or spin, but Solomon was not clothed as well as they are. Irises don’t fret, fume or fear being kept underground too long. Their patient demeanor exudes a kind of whimsy, an extravagance of color and beauty that is icing on the cake, whatever their eco-purpose and contribution to the mechanics of the earthly system.

I speculate (as did John Calvin), that their botanic purpose could have been carried out as a gray box on a bare stick, but that’s not how the Author of beauty chose to do it.

Blue iris

Whatever irises do, whatever their purpose, a large reason for their whole existence is to make us rejoice. I love sitting at the Gardens and looking at them because I love being in the presence of grace, beautiful design, joyful purpose.

These grace made floral jewels lighten me, calm me, delight me, and remind me that I don’t have to fret, fume, fear, and hate every petty annoyance that disrupts my anxious schedule.

Like the three beautiful flowers I sat a few rows behind this morning, they whisper grace and compel worshipping the One who brings Spring at just the right time.