Patience: The Elusive Virtue
“I hate waiting.”
- Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
You know, I always considered myself fairly patient. After all, long car drives don’t phase me much even though I can’t sleep or read in the car. I don’t get antsy about Christmas beyond what I consider normal. And I’m not even itching to graduate. But this waiting for my stake presidency interview grates my nerves away grain by grain.
I’d always heard that mission papers take a while, but what I didn’t know was that most of that “while” is composed of meaningless waiting. I got the paperwork itself done in a week along with the bishop’s interview. And yet it’s been three weeks and I’m still waiting. Add onto that, Bishop wants me to be a good sport and refrain from heckling in any form whatsoever.
All of this is problematic. For one thing, I need to know if I should sell my contract or not before Winter Semester smacks me in the face. I also need to know if I should defer or sign up for classes. Either way, it’s getting to be about time to act. I’m probably just going to have to defer now and sell on pure skittish hope that it’ll all work out in the end. Aside from that, Daniella and Zach and I have really been looking forward to Thanksgiving break and leaving Monday afternoon for what will be my longest Thanksgiving break ever. But rumor has it that the Stake President will be calling this Sunday to arrange for the interview - and if he sets it the week after, that will muddle some plans.
But that isn’t even the real issue. The worst part about waiting isn’t even the uncertainty - it’s the self-esteem attacks that come and go sporadically. It’s a common fact that the moment you set your heart on a righteous decision or you receive inspiration, the adversary blasts you with all the doubt he can find. I don’t know how it’s been for other missionaries, but boy howdy has it been scary for me to confront all of the issues of timing, inadequacy, and worthiness the longer I have to wait. I wouldn’t know, but I imagine this is more difficult for a girl. A boy knows he is supposed to serve. Although doubts of this nature are likely to come anyway, all he has to do is resign himself to do as he has been commanded. The decision is made. For girls, the command is between ourselves and the Lord. There are no messages from general conference to fortify the walls when we question. We have only our own records of the time we decided, when we knew it was right.
But that, and the constant mercy of the Lord of course, is enough. I’ve been talking to Jeannette, who happens to be in the same boat as me exactly. In fact, we got all our paperwork done that same week. Bishop asked us if we were racing. And in speaking with her, I’ve been reassured that she’s been dealing with the same feelings. Luckily, I’ve recently learned that the Lord never communicates through doubt or fear. Luckily too I’ve learned that it is just when we make our biggest and best decisions that we are attacked the hardest. In fact, in a sense, we know just how important it is that we carry on by how much we are opposed by the adversary. When Joseph Smith was seized by the thick darkness in the grove, we can be assured it was because he was making a righteous and essential decision and Satan wanted him stopped. Of course, we’re all a long way from being Joseph Smith - but I think we can still learn from what he said: “And as for the perils which I am called to pass through,they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end” (D&C 127:2).
What can you do? When you have to wait you have to wait. You build yourself a little fortification to wait in. You put a platform of patience atop supports of faith and trust and hope so you’re above the current. You build walls of virtue and knowledge and past experience. And you bolt the door with prayer.
And then you sit inside and yearn.
I guess I have no reason to complain. Three weeks may feel awfully long, but goodness knows people can and have waited longer for blessings to come. And there is always this sustaining thought: “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17).
I can stand still a little longer, I suppose.