The Power of Patience

Originally published Wednesday, 18 September 2013.

"I can tell you're really unhappy here," said one of my coworkers. This was almost a year ago. When I was supervising a small fine-dining restaurant and was, as this woman wisely gathered, very unhappy.

But still, her words stung. I tried so hard to be a positive force. To be encouraging in a petty environment where filling time shift slots and serving food to strangers was all that mattered.


It had gotten so bad that one of my servers was actually apprehensive about requesting off to go to her grandfather's funeral.

"Go," I told my server, shaking my head. Bewildered that we had created a culture where bussing tables and collecting tips was more noble than gathering with loved ones in a time of crises. "Don't think about this place for one second–this is what's really important."

At that point, I wanted so badly to follow my own advice. To march through the grand French doors of the restaurant and not look back for a second. And my wise coworker could take one look at my face and tell.

"You remind me of that Toby Mac song," she said. "You know?" And then she went into a few rhythmic verses about packing her bags when she needs to stay.

She was right.

Every notion I had to pick up and leave at that moment was born out of a surge of impatience. I had made a few pithy prayers to God about the situation. But, for some reason, I felt the urge to stay, stay, stay. I was working to pay my way through graduate school. To quit my restaurant job would mean to stop school.

Finish your degree. Pay your way through grad school. Just wait. Don't leave. You'll be glad you stayed, the urge (probably God), told me.

I obeyed (if it counts to be a sore-obeyer, complaining the whole time...but still).

And that's when life became interesting. I was serving the most incredible people stopping through this little restaurant in Virginia Beach. Musicians. Politicians. Evangelists. Actors. Supreme Court Justices. And authors. Real, live authors.

One author in particular was the sweetest, most encouraging woman I had ever met. I told her I wanted to be a writer, too. And that somehow I had wound up at a restaurant. That I had a manuscript-in-progress, but that I was just trying to be obedient by staying. And that it was hard.

She looked at me like she knew exactly how I felt. She told me to keep writing. The next day I gave her the few first drafts of very poorly written prose. She very kindly accepted them, and told me that she would read them and get back to me.

But after a few days of not hearing from her, I couldn't wait any longer. This was the most important thing in my life. And I didn't feel like she was respecting me or my work. I had only sent out a few pages to a few family members and one close friend at the time. I trusted her with these words.

Still. Weeks went by. Nothing.

So, I pushed. I emailed. I persisted. I wasn't going to be ignored. Every voice and rational notion in my head told me to stop. To let it go. To wait my turn. That yes, she would remember me one day, but now was not the time.

But I pressed further. I was practically cyber bullying this busy woman to do me this sweet favor.

Months passed, and I pursued her again. Asking about my words. Wondering if she was going to make good on her promise to read them. A few days later she apologized for her tardiness in replying. That my manuscript was on her desk. And that she'd read it when she had time.

Finally (!). 

She then wrote a short graph explaining how she had just lost her mother.


I'd be surprised if she didn't throw the whole thing in the trash after the way I behaved. I made a mistake. And possibly created a huge block in our relationship by my selfishness.

Oh, man. If I had a chance to just calm down and live those few days over again, I would.

Maybe, um, maybe I have a problem with patience. And maybe before all of my dreams have the opportunity to come true, I have a few lessons to learn. Lessons somewhere along the lines of what Toby Mac says to avoid, "building up kingdoms just to watch them fade away."

I've since left that little restaurant. The timing could not have been more perfect. I finished my degree and learned a thing or two about patience and perseverance.

And though I don't do the whole waiting thing very well (just ask the strangers who I badger to do favors for me), there may be a lesson for me in the midst of all of this. In the place where I felt called to stay. This place that now, after three years, I'm finally calling home. 

What about you, sisters? Have there been times in your life when you've felt called to be patient in certain situations? What value have you learned from waiting? What lessons have you learned from being impatient, like me? Leave a comment below.

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc