Losing Our Patience & Where to Find It

I barely remember our family trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It’s one of my earliest memories. And although I can’t remember many specifics, I do remember that the message of the fair was that “our lives are going to get real easier real fast!” The miracle of technology is uopn us!

I can remember driving through an exhibit of the future house in a big convertible car, and seeing for the first time all the new gadgets and devices that would be part of our lives in the next 20 years or so. Yes, I thought to myself – perfect timing for me!

Today, I can’t tell you where that easier, quicker, better life went. We sure do have a lot of gadgets and devices designed to offer us quicker better ways of doing everyday things. But how come our amount of free time didn’t dramatically increase. We got the gadgets – but what happened to our new freedom?

As I grew up, I kept waiting for the next newest device or gadget that will finally set us free from the captivity of time.

It never came. Each new thing created more speed and more complication in my life. Instead of getting easier with more free time, life got faster and faster as I crowded more and more things into an already full life. And then life became more and more difficult and demanding. And now there is never enough time.

What happened?

Though I often thought this to be the case, when I moved to Arthur it finally became clear to me that we’re not supposed to live our lives chasing time – doing things faster and quicker in order to create more money or more free time. That plan always seems to backfire.

Instead, the way to the calm, peaceful and quiet life is not to shake down time for more free time, but rather to fall into the harmony of time that God has already created for us.

In his new book, “What the Amish Teach Us,” Donald Kraybill asks us to consider this question: “Have you ever thought about all the time we have saved with the avalanche of our “time-saving” electronic gadgets?” Go ahead – try to add up all that time we have saved. It seems that most of the things that were supposed to free us up, instead strain our schedule even more. And our shcedules have just about reached the breaking point. Haven’t they?

And yet, as Kraybill notes, we still demand more and more – and still desire faster and faster. Think about it. We actually crave quick service and instant gratifcation. We are enticed by the notion of split-second profits. We want what we want and we want it now. Faster is never fast enough.

We cannot stand delays of any kind! We rage at long and sluggish checkout lines; at traffic bottlenecks; and at software glitiches. Instead of getting more control over time, we are actually losing control of it, as our lives become dominated by our constant seeking of more and more “time-saving” devices.

And amid all our rage – patience has vanished.

There’s an Old Amish saying: “the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse get the cheese.” The Amish are more interested in the cheese than the worm. Kraybill says that “patience guides their journey” through life. Every buggy that plods along a street in Arthur is proclaiming to the world, including each of us, “patience is the way.”

One older Amish man explained it this way: “The horse is our pacer – We can’t speed up like you can in a car. Our horses set the pace for life and slow things down.” Isn’t that a great metaphor for the difference between our “English” ways and the Amish ways? Look at our cars … and trucks … and bells and whistles … and their costs. Not to mention the negative impact we are having on our environment with our gas guzzling vehicles. Compare that to a horse and buggy.     

When Amish go out for a ride, they are able to see the things of creation around them. They can even smell them. They observe the countryside … and experience the weather … and they nod or wave to all their friends along the way. It’s hard NOT to wave back.

There is something about that horse and buggy that calls to us in our soul. “Slow down” it says. “Take your foot off the gas pedal. Smell the roses. Look at the cloud formations. Look into the faces of other people, and smile. Sit a spell. Relax. Fall into the flow and harmony of God’s time. It’s already perfect.”

Because God is usually found in our moments of stillness, and not in our times of speeding and hurrying, the Amish stubbornly resist the modern culture around them with its “breakneck speed of hypermodernity.” The Amish way is to demonstrate uncommon patience; not supersonic speed.  

This resistance is reinforced by their spiritual practices. Their church services last about 3 hours. Kraybill calls it a “slow motion service where everyone sits in a quiet patience” that “harkens back to a medieval monastery.” There’s no need in ther faith for quick fixes to life’s problems; or for a “stop-and-go religion” that takes about an hour every week out of our schedules; or for an “instant gospel of prosperity”; or for a “well crafted mini-homily.” The Amish service serves to remind the faithful that “we are pilgrims plodding through a high speed world that’s not our final home.”

The more I reside here in Arthur, and the more I learn about and expereince the Amish way, the more I become convinced that the Amish may be so far behind us that they’re actually ahead of us.

There’s much to learn from a small band of Christ followers who take their faith so seriously that they are willing to stand out in their resistance to the ways of the world and in so doing, spread a gospel messsge of a new way to live – a way not so tied to modern times. I refer here to the 12 disciples, of course. But I could just as well have said the same about the Amish surrounding us.

Slow is the way, and steady is the pace,

Pastor Bob <><