As I was contemplating how I would celebrate Lent this year, my attention turned to the practice of patience. I am an impatient patient person and this is not good. Slow walkers, unpredictable drivers, and long lines annoy me. I struggle with waiting for things to happen and often end up rushing matters that require careful consideration and deserve to develop in due time. I'm impatient for the future to get here and frustrated that I can't know what will happen next. Patient people seem happier and less irritable, so patience is probably a good characteristic to cultivate in my own life. However, it seemed to me that anything I would do in Lent to control my impatience would just be a self-improvement exercise and not a penitential, God-seeking practice.
Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that, as in my own life, impatience is alive and well in Lent. For example, we can be impatient about the gloomy time of repentance and suffering (if you're into that sort of thing), and just want to make it to the joyful Easter celebration. Some people abstain from certain foods or practices during Lent and impatiently count down the days until they can indulge again. These negative aspects of an impatient Lent should probably be avoided. Yet, they seem to be built into how a lot of Western Christians celebrate the season.
On the other hand, an impatient Lent can be a holy Lent. Perhaps we should embrace this impatience and live into it fully. A few examples of this positive sort of impatience come to mind. First, I am impatient with the state of my relationship with God. Some people seem to have a connection with God marked by incessant prayer and deep contentment. This has not been my experience, but perhaps my impatience with a shallow relationship with God can motivate me to intentionally seek God during Lent. Second, I, like many other members of Emmanuel Church, am impatient about the sins of racism, violence, and poverty in Baltimore City. I'm impatient to get to Easter – to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, where justice prevails and these sins no longer hurt ourselves and our neighbors.
Given my excellent grasp of impatience, I have decided to embrace frustration during this Lenten season. I can channel my impatience into prayer and acts of service that impact individual people, affirming their holiness and playing my part in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.