Patience and temper

January 29, 2011

"Because I'm evil/ My middle name is misery/ Well, I'm evil/ So don't you mess around with me"

“The dog ate my passport.” Unlike the child who blames the dog for his failure to do his homework, I meant these words almost literally yesterday. While my dog didn’t quite eat my passport, she did badly gnaw on it. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but as it happens, I’m paid up to go to Israel with my bishop and some of my fellow recent ordinands in mid-February.

Needless to say, I was frantic yesterday morning.

It happened like this: On Thursday afternoon, my son Townshend needed to retrieve something that he left in the backseat of my car. My car was locked. I keep my keys, wallet, and other important items including my passport, in a basket on the kitchen counter. Townshend was fumbling around for my keys and unwittingly knocked my passport onto the kitchen floor.

Lisa and I had a meeting Thursday night. We left the kids with a sitter. We returned home to find my mutilated passport—with teeth marks and dog slobber all over it—in the middle of the family room.

Why the passport? Why couldn’t my bicycle owner’s manual, which has been sitting in that basket for two years, untouched, have fallen onto the floor? I would never have missed it.

I got so angry. I lost my cool. I didn’t bother yelling at Townshend—he was in bed anyway, and it was an accident. I turned my anger on Lisa at first, whose calm, reasonable, and reassuring words only made me feel worse. And then I turned it on myself, telling myself what an idiot I was (and worse) for leaving my passport in that basket. (That isn’t normally where it lives, but I had to photocopy it recently for travel documentation.)

After yelling, raging, and stomping around for a while, I dutifully expedited a new passport application—for a whopping $250—to the State Department. The passport people say it will take two to three weeks to turn it around. (Two weeks is good. Three weeks is not good.) A parishioner encouraged me to call Sen. Isakson’s office and explain my problem. To my surprise, I talked to someone whose job is solving passport problems. He couldn’t have been more helpful and reassuring. He’s on the case.

All that to say that it’s very likely that I’ll have my passport in time.

In a moment of calm after the storm yesterday, I told some of my clergy friends that the fact that this happened at all is evidence of the reality of the demonic. I’m not even joking! After all, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to work on becoming more patient—with myself and others; to not lose my temper so easily; to not get upset when things don’t go as planned. I’ve been praying about it.

A friend told me, “Isn’t it great that God gave you such a golden opportunity to practice being patient and staying calm?”

“What good is that,” I asked, “when I failed so miserably?”

“You failed this time, but the fact that you are aware that you failed, and that this behavior is a problem, represents growth on your part.”

I hope and believe he’s right.

2 Responses to “Patience and temper”

  1. Linda Says:

    Patience is a tough one. I too had/have issues with patience. I attended many meetings in a 12-Step program, and struggled a lot with patience. I was cautioned about praying for patience because God may really give me something to be patient for. I have resorted to my simple prayer at times of “Help” and “Thank You.” I know He knows what I need, and I have to tell you I have greater patience than I did years ago. Simple … sometimes not easy! It may be that we become wiser with age, because certain things that were so huge before, just aren’t now. One step at a time!

  2. brentwhite Says:

    One step at a time, indeed. Thanks, Linda!


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