We are advised in Hebrews 12:1 to “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV) In our “hurry-up” society, however the race which lies ahead of us promises constant stress from the pressures associated with our busy lifestyles. Even though the stress in our lives is inevitable, we can learn how to minimize the degree to which a situation is stressful to us.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, in his classic work The Power of Positive Thinking (1), reports on a championship university crew who were told by their coach, “To win this or any race, row slowly.” That hardly seems appropriate advice for a winning crew. Yet they had learned through experience that rapid rowing destroyed their stroking rhythm. When the crew learned to be patient and use consistent slower stroking, they ultimately won the race.
The renowned nineteenth century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also gave advice on patience in his poem of the same title.
“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.” (2)
While we’re “up and doing,” we can become more aware of our areas of impatience and actively work to reduce this stress in our lives. We can pray for God’s wisdom to recognize situations in which we can take action, and to realize our impatience will not resolve issues that are out of our control.
Through proper time management, we can expand our “up and doing” to areas outside of the home and work environments with activities designed to relax mind and body. Participating in sports, reading a favorite book, listening to music, or pursuing hobbies will give balance in our lives. As we relax from our “still achieving and still pursuing” lifestyles, we should not feel guilty about taking a few moments for ourselves. A relaxed mind and body are more likely to provide us with a patient outlook on life.
A balance of activities in our lives will also help us to have a “heart for any fate.” Thus when “any fate” comes our way, we can more readily cope with that eventuality with some forbearance when the other areas of our lives already have a semblance of order.
The experience of waiting for tomorrow’s flight would hardly seem to provide a lesson in patience. Yet a woman who lives on an ice-bound island in Western Lake Erie, where the only transportation to the mainland is a daily flight, has learned this lesson well. We can benefit from her positive attitude as she sums up the philosophy for not getting upset over things over which we do not have any control: “I’ve learned over the years there isn’t anything so important that it can’t wait for tomorrow’s flight.” (3)
Her example can encourage us to examine our circumstances and see if there are, excluding what may be true emergencies, many things in our lives for which “tomorrow’s flight” would be quite appropriate. The championship crew realized it’s the steady pace in crewing wins the race. Can we adopt this strategy for our lifestyles and run with patience “the race which lies ahead?”
(1) Peale, Norman Vincent. The Power of Positive Thinking. New York: Foundation for Christian Living, 1968, 95
(2) Longfellow, Henry W. “Patience”, Leaves of Gold, Clyde Francis Lytle, Editor, Rev. Ed.,Williamsport, PA: The Coslett Publishing Co., 1952, 12.
(3) Engel, Margaret. “The Little Airline of the Lake.” Air & Space Smithsonian (Feb/Mar 87): 56.