Friday, November 28, 2014

Patience and Gratitude?

I have had issues with my son lately, which have created a fertile seedbed for acts and words of impatience. At the same time, today, I read a post elsewhere about the gratitude of Saint Bernadette, who listed all kinds of situations for which she gave thanks that would normally arouse impatience and complaint in most anyone. And it occurs to me to wonder how patience and gratitude might be related one to another.

Primarily, a grateful person, who includes trials and difficulties and opposition among the things for which he is grateful, sees the world and life in a way different from most of us. We are necessarily grateful for gifts, and gifts require a giver. The cosmos does not give. A person gives, and so we express gratitude to a person. Let us assume that we are on the same page as concerns God, for the sake of argument. Bernadette expressed her gratitude to God the Father, for the gifts that she received. She believed that all things were given to her by God, at least in the limited sense that he permitted whatever she received, and that he had a purpose in his gifts. She might not have understood his purpose, yet, because she saw him as a loving benefactor, she was grateful for what she received, because she had confidence that, even in her ignorance of his specific purpose, there was love in that purpose, there must be something good, even if she could not see or recognize it.

And so, Bernadette, seeing only good and love in God's gifts, had no reason for impatience, although, it occurs to me that like a child unable to open a Christmas present might be impatient to see the gift, Bernadette could have been impatient to uncover God's purpose in permitting a trial. But here, again, when one has confidence in the love and goodness of the giver, there is cause to be patient in the midst of a trial, and rather to be grateful for the giver's love and goodness, even when the purpose is unknown.

It is only necessary to see God as the original cause of a trial, even if only as wisely and beneficently permitting a trial, rather than seeing the obvious direct cause of the trial: in my case, the issues with my son.

I must respond to my son's issues, whatever they may be at the time, in order to help him, to guide him, to correct him, as needed, but it is important to see God's hand in it, that He has permitted whatever disconcerting behavior for a loving purpose. I can be grateful for that unseen purpose, for the love and kindness behind the trial, and act with patience in order to derive, and help my son derive, the greatest possible good from the gift.

To get impatient with the trial (gift) would be like stomping on a wrapped Christmas gift in frustration over being unable to open it. I might damage the gift, and therefore lose forever the blessing intended by the giver.

But most of all, the giver is entitled to my gratitude. If I manifest impatience or annoyance because I do not see the purpose behind the gift, or better, do not recognize the love and generosity behind the gift, I am really expressing ingratitude, and am offending my Benefactor.

In the case of my son, whatever good I may be trying to accomplish in my response to him may be completely lost or contradicted by my impatience. I really have to joyfully meet my son with his issues, in a spirit of love and gratitude, so that he may see, through my love, the love of God, who has blessed BOTH of us, with the gift we call a trial.