Paul Poulton reflects on the ways our patience is tested and how we shouldn't judge others

Paul Poulton
Paul Poulton

Waiting in line at the supermarket checkout - I'm in a hurry but trying not to show it. I'm like a duck, looking gracious on the surface of a pond while all the time paddling furiously underneath the waterline. The check out lady begins to talk to the man in front of me about her holidays in Zante. Apparently (I learn) the glimmering Ionian Sea is beautiful, and families go there to relax. Marriage ceremonies are also performed on the beach for couples from the UK who want to formalise their union. Clothing for a Zante beach wedding is semi-formal and men can wear khaki trousers with a waistcoat. Women should look for cocktail dressy material. Has he got a Tesco Club card? Yes, he has, taking up more time.

I eventually get served and head straight to the nearby canal; it's sunny, maybe I can sit on the bank and compose myself and get some calmness before my busy afternoon is upon me. I find a pleasant spot and rest there for a few minutes trying to find some inner peace. Come on tranquillity, hurry it up, I'm in a rush!

My patience is short. If the Lord's patience can last forty days and forty nights without food, then mine can last from the end of the phone call to the sight of the delivery pizza van arriving in front of my home.

God is rich in patience; I know that. Not only because we are told so in the Bible but I have tested his patience many times and yet always find him ready to help when I pray.

I would like my patience to extend a little longer than it does, particularly when I see people doing stupid things like making inconsequential conversation when other people are waiting in line. I'm quite glad to say that I never do any stupid things at all.

Seeing other people's blazing faults while conveniently overlooking our own is a part of the existing human condition; a trap easy to fall into. Detecting someone who flouts health and safety rules is as easy as falling off a log. Spotting a "yes man" who sways which ever way the wind happens to blow, is a breeze. Identifying someone who is a poor parent, is as easy as stealing candy from a baby. And pinpointing a greedy person, is as easy as pie, or a piece of cake, or both. Recognising a person who is always trying to "muscle in" is a pushover.

Paul told Timothy that "The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgement ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them" (1 Tim 5:24). Yeah some of our sins are obvious and it's easy to see them, especially in other people. But the same grace that has been extended to me, I in turn, ought to extend to others; even if their blemish is different to mine. I can point out someone's laziness because I don't seem to have that fault. However, I do have other faults, my competitive nature can get out of hand and I end up hurting those around me. But God hasn't finished with me yet, so please don't give up on me, and in turn I won't give up on you.

Solomon said "Anyone who is among the living has hope, even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!" So while there's life there's hope. And we are alive. So let us grab the hope on offer and "bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col 3:13).

Back in 1905 the London newspaper the Daily News published correspondence on "What Is Wrong With The World." In response the English writer GK Chesterton wrote to the paper saying "I am".

If you will permit me one more Chesterton quote he also said, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

Why should my impatience spoil the supermarket checkout lady's day? She does a great job. I wouldn't want to sit in her seat for such a long time saying "The barcode doesn't seem to be registering on these sweet potatoes, I'll key it in, hang on a sec," and then asking, "Have you got a club card?" No, she does a fab job, God bless her. Yes, please tell me about your nice time in Zante. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.