Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
– Ecclesiastes 7:8 (ESV)
In the world of athletics, patience is a powerful weapon. Experienced coaches know this, but rarely do we talk with our athletes about it. We certainly don’t hesitate to talk about the virtues of hard work, but why does the virtue of patience get left out? Maybe it’s so obvious we think we don’t have to say anything about it. Is it possible that we just assume our athletes understand the value of patience in their training? Novelist Leo Tolstoy said, “The strongest of all warriors are these two—Time and Patience.” Even if Tolstoy wasn’t talking about sports, that’s great advice. Without patience, it’s difficult to accomplish anything. A great deal of athletic training involves long range goals. Long range goals are achieved one step at a time. There is no “microwave” formula. You can’t plant an apple tree today and eat apples tomorrow! Athletes and coaches must remember that the road to improvement will be filled with potholes, detours, and dead ends. However, there are no limits for those willing to accept the uneven pace and endure the journey with patience.
King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, tells us a great deal about patience. Patience is difficult to acquire and even more difficult to sustain. The very definition of the word is daunting. In English and Hebrew patience refers to the ability to wait quietly; face rejection or delay; the ability to bear calmly and with self-control frustrating and upsetting situations. That sure doesn’t sound like much fun! However, without it, we can be easily defeated. How easy it is to let impatience lead our minds down a road filled with anxiety and frustration. How easy it is to just quit so we can leave the trials and delays behind. On a lighter note, in the early 1980’s, the only phone company in the State of Israel was run by the government. It often took five to eight years to get a phone line installed after placing an order. This simple story should remind us all that acquiring and sustaining patience requires another important virtue—a healthy sense of humor.
Heavenly Father, continue to teach me the virtue of patience today. Though these lessons may be painful at times, help me no to give in to the frustrations, for the rewards are great. Amen.