Monday, August 6, 2007

"P" is for Patience: Grace Happening People Practice Patience

This is the eighth installment of a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

Adopt the Pace of nature: her secret is patience."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am on vacation in Colorado. Surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, I am intrigued by Emerson’s idea that nature’s secret is patience. What might I learn from these ancient peaks and verdant valleys and the flora and fauna gracing their landscape?

Information on Rocky Mountain National Park points out that “most Trail Ridge Road travelers drive to treeline with a certain amount of urgency,” missing out on the beauty leading up to the alpine tundra. Just reading this statement helps me slow down and absorb nature at its best. Trail Ridge Road ascends slowly through the montane (below 9,000 feet elevation), subalpine (9,000-11,400 feet) and alpine (above 11,400 feet) ecosystems, via numerous switch backs. The highest point along this forty-eight mile road is 12,183 feet. At Milner Pass, where the highway crosses the Continental Divide, the elevation is 10,758 feet.

In those rare moments when there is no traffic nearby, and we climb out of the car to take a closer look, the silence, punctuated only by the twittering of birds, is amazing—a sound, or should I say a lack of sound, that is rare in my life. I love it! I am in the Garden of Eden with Adam (aka, my husband, Rex) and God, and a bull elk who is slowly munching on a mouthful of grass—this scene framed in glorious silence. I really, really like it!

Like the Rocky Mountain tourists, I tend to travel my daily “trail ridge road” with a sense of urgency. I hurry to get to work. On my lunch hour, I hurry to run an errand or two. After work, I hurry home to feed the dogs, put the load of clothes in the dryer that I put into the washer before leaving for work. Hurry, hurry, hurry, attempting to get the “must dos” of life over with so I can enjoy the vista at the end of my day, which may be a walk in the woods, a bike ride in the country, a book, or a TV show. Inevitably, my trip up the mountain is frustrated by numerous irritations, like forgetting to stop at the grocery to pick up milk and having to backtrack to do so, my anxiety mounting and my patience bottoming out. In the midst of my frustration, I’m sure I miss numerous vistas along the way. But typically, I just want to get the day over with so I can enjoy my “alpine tundra.”

Nature teaches me that life is a process. In the midst of the intoxicating fragrance of lodgepole pines, I marvel over these inspiring spires (which I’m sure were the inspiration for church spires). At their feet are adorable baby pines just beginning their life process. Many of the adult trees are slowly being eaten alive by wood-eating pine beetles, their brown spires taking over the once green landscape. Though a sad sight, this is a natural process, occurring due to recent warm winters and prolonged low rainfall. This process of destruction takes about ten years to run its course. Fortunately, the beetles only attack the mature trees, leaving the young trees to carry the future of the forest.

My life is a process, as well. I’ve grown from being a tiny pine tree to a maturing pine tree. I have weathered storms, dry spells, and infestations. In so doing, I am better able to stand steady and go with the flow of life’s changing seasons. And I am better able to stand beside others and lend my steadiness to them through the storms and dry spells and infestations that threaten their growth and healing.

After the storms and dry spells, the infestations and blighting of landscape, there is restoration. Among the baby pines come wildflowers, their vivid colors and vast variety, inspiring hope and joy. At the worst of times in my life, wildflowers bloom.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

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