My granddaughter Orli is disabled and uses a wheelchair or walker for mobility. She’s on a Little League team with other kids with various disabilities and I went to watch them play. Right away, I noticed the patience of their coach, who was also the pitcher for this game. Greg was up to bat, standing in a walker and barely able to swing at the balls the pitcher lobbed over home plate—pitch after pitch, and the batter never came close to hitting one.
After what must have been twenty pitches or more I was pretty impressed with the pitcher, who just kept the balls coming. But then I thought about the kids standing out in the field, patiently waiting for a hit, or a walk, or anything to get the game moving, and the kids on bases, waiting for something to happen so they could run into home and score a point, and realized they were showing even greater patience. What impressed me most, however, was that everyone was clearly having a good time, with friendly banter, smiles, and shouts of encouragement for the batter, despite the slow pace and the limitations that every player had to deal with. Finally, Greg switched to a batting stand that held the ball in place until he could hit it. He connected and sent the ball rolling just inside the foul line into right field—which was pretty deserted because no one usually hit that far. To the cheers and encouragement of the crowd, the kid stamped off in his walker, kicking up dust and making his way to first base, where Orli the baseman threw the ball at the base and Greg came in safe.
Whatever patience this game required of the coach, it called out a lot more patience from the kids, who had to put up with uncooperative arms and legs, play ball, and, most of all, have fun doing it. Sitting in the dusty bleachers, I was reminded of the difference between mere endurance, just living with whatever limitations and frustrations come our way, and the sort of godly patience that endures with joy.
A while back, I noted the difference between active and passive patience, that is, between just hanging in there and really going after life’s challenges despite the delays and limitations. Simple enjoyment marks the difference between the two. Lots of folks get through life and patiently endure what they have to endure, but it’s a rare virtue to have fun as you go.
The power of patience isn’t in just passively getting through our trials, but in actively maintaining joy and hope amidst them all. It’s the joy that makes the difference:
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces patience; and let patience have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
I don’t imagine Orli’s Little League friends were having fun because they knew they were on the way to spiritual maturity. Still, they gave me a picture of the kind of patience I want to practice. So, that’s my challenge for the week, not just to get through whatever trials come my way, but to enjoy myself in the process.