Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Patience—Part I

     Patience is a virtue of which I've been blessed by God with an ample share (I married at age thirty-six; had only four premarital romances my entire life, the first in college, the longest lasting a year; have written fiction off and on for over twenty-five years without a single sale, though I've submitted works for publication only intermittently and much less than I know I should've; have stuck with a suboptimal job with a series of suboptimal bosses for over twenty years; have lived in rentals all my adult life; and have lived in ridiculously overpriced and overcrowded Honolulu for the past twenty-five years). I suppose many would say I'm just slow, which may be true, but I'd prefer to think I like to savor the journey, which makes arrival at the destination that much sweeter—assuming I ever get there. Others may say since I'm content, no wonder I'm patient—there's little incentive to change. To an extent I agree, however contentment is far more a state of mind than a state of affairs such that if we feel grateful for what we have rather than pine for what we don't, we'll more likely attain contentment.
     That being said, I can strive and work hard to achieve life goals like the next person, largely through self-discipline and perseverance. (I have a CPA, MBA, and read and write incessantly, mainly to improve myself and help others, and for enjoyment.) So it's not as if I'm naturally lazy and sanguine with anything that comes my way. It's critical that we all do our parts to make the world and ourselves better, and contentment without that minimal effort, I believe, is impossible.
     But I've found that striving and trying harder to attain contentment, peace, and fulfillment seldom works. Especially in the past when I was eager and at times even desperate to find a girl friend, trying harder just made things worse. Prospective targets of my affections sensed my neediness and nervousness, and felt repulsed, which is understandable, for even in mine own eyes, when girls approached me with those same attributes, I withdrew posthaste to spare their feelings. It was only when I surrendered all my dreams, hopes, and desires to get married, have kids, etc. to God, that I felt at peace and content with my singleness and at ease with all the girls I met, even cute ones that would have hitherto made me gulp. God had been encouraging me up to that point to entrust that one last, most cherished dream to Him by blessing me so abundantly, giving me joy and fulfillment in everything I had and in serving others—so much so that I finally realized that if He sent me to China to live out my days as a single missionary, I'd be fine with it because I knew He'd bless me for it. (This was in the 1990's when China was still considered a Third World Country.)
     And just that simple act of trust made all the difference in the world. It lifted my lifetime's weight of longing from my soul. I no longer had to plan, scheme, and strive, I could just be me, and I liked it. It felt easy, natural, comfortable, and good. Henceforth, I looked upon girls with a sort of bemused detachment, wondering what God would do next if I just treated them well as sisters in Christ.
     Girls soon noticed the difference—the seeming confidence and maturity—that made me more attractive than all the want-to-have guys, and sensed by okay-with-whatever-happens; I-don't-really-need-a-girlfriend spirit that took the pressure off them to make me happy and not devastate me if things didn't work out. With so many new prospects including attractive girls (not just needy, desperate ones) I began wondering, does God really want me to stay single forever? Or did He just want my willingness to stay single forever?
     It took years and a series of stupefying “coincidences” (I only realized them many years later and included them in a story) for me to find out. Deanne and I met, and years later, began courting, eventually reaching the point that we both felt certain that God had brought us together. It took awhile, and there were times when I wondered if I'd ever get married at all, but things worked out for the best in the end, praise God.

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