By Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick
“I already doed that. I already had a drink of water,” my toddler answers when I ask her to prevent dehydration, hours after her last drink of water.
“Yes,” I try to explain, “there are some things we have to do again and again. Drink some water.”
“So I don’t get sick?” she asks, remembering my comments from an earlier conversation.
“So you don’t get sick,” I affirm.
All the while, I recognize that this is one of those times I am trying to teach my child something I don’t fully grasp myself: that life, in a large part, is made up of things we do over and over. We spend much of our days doing things only to undo them, liking making the bed, tidying upand filing papers, in addition to all of those things we have to do multiple times a day, like eating and drinking.
Life is made up of small moments – moments that are often filled with tedious, repetitious acts.
It is in these routine moments that we have the opportunity to develop virtues, from patience and gratitude to orderliness and unselfishness, or to further ingrain habits of vice.
In these everyday moments, impatience is so easy! Like my toddler, exasperated at having to take another drink of water, I often tire of having to reload the dishwasher, file the endless pile of papers and engage again in personal grooming. It is a constant temptation to rush through these moments and desire “what has not yet come to be,” as theologian Romano Guardini defines impatience, in the more exciting moments.
In his book “Learning the Virtues that Lead You to God,”Guardini says cultivating patience requires accepting reality.
“We can resist or change many things according to our wishes; but basically we must accept what comes and is given to us. To understand this and to act accordingly is patience. Anyone who is unwilling to do this is in constant conflict with his own existence.”
My impatient irritation at the renewed need for personal care or domestic orderliness is, according to Guardini, in conflict with my own existence; it is a small but profound rejection of the physical reality that I am given. Patience accepts the material existence given to me by God, with all of its monotonous aspects. True patience may even lay in delighting in these moments, in savoring the cool glass of water as the gift that it is. In so doing, we come into right relationship with God, the creator and giver of the gift. We acknowledge our dependency on Him and the love he has for us.
Guardini notes that patience is the attitude of God toward the world. In acquiring patience, then, we are both entering more deeply into right relationship with God as well as becoming more like God, in whose image we are made.
Therein lies the paradox in the ordinary: it is here, in the unexciting, commonplace practices that we restore our relationship with the divine. In so doing, we become more who God created us to be.