As I was shopping with my son and niece, both 3-year-olds became unruly. So I stopped them and explained the meaning of cooperation. Staring into their innocent faces, I asked, "What do I need right now?" My son looked up at me and shouted, "Patience!"
He was absolutely right. Though I thought my greatest need was cooperation, I was overlooking the obvious: I needed patience.
My husband, Brian, and I have seen this same principle in marriage. We have often thought that the missing element between us was cooperation when really it was patience. Cooperation demands my spouse's participation. Patience asks only for mine. Patience is prolonged grace — waiting with expectation for God to work. This allows God the time to work in me, in my spouse and in my marriage.
As a pastor ministering to couples, Brian has found that most breakdowns in communication occur because each party is preoccupied with their spouse's failures. Each partner is ignoring his or her own need for patience.
"Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:4, NKJV). Patience is more than what I exhibit; it's a trait I need to internalize.
Patience does not come easily to Brian or me. Our differences can often be a source of irritation for both of us. I walk fast. He strolls. I'm always early. He likes to arrive just in time. Brian catches on to technology quickly. But when I want a new app, I ask him to download it for me. Just as Brian gets frustrated with my ineptitude to learn a new technology, I disagree with his definition of timeliness.
Through 32 years of marriage, we have learned that frustration, differences and disagreements are some of the best opportunities for patience to grow in marriage. The more our patience has been needed — and exercised — the stronger it's grown.
Talk About It
- When would you like me to have more patience with you?
- In what situations do you work hard to be patient with me?
Cheryl and Brian Brodersen are the authors of Growing Together As a Couple.
For devotions to help make your faith — and your marriage — stronger each week of the year, see Jim and Jean Daly’s book The Best Year of Your Marriage: 52 devotions to bring you closer.