faith, moments, motherhood

Love is patient

September 15, 2014
Love is Patient // Fiona Lynne

Life slows down radically when you have a newborn to care for.

She takes her time to eat. She takes her time to be rocked to sleep. When she’s in the mood for playing, her games are slow too – the same funny face or little movement over and over again. Dressing her is slow, as I gently persuade her to “bend this elbow, now straighten that one”.

My own activities decelerate too. Emails are written in stages, taking a couple of days to be completed. I add things to online shopping baskets and finally get around to pressing ‘order’ a week later. Going to the post office waits for the right moment when she’ll be happy taking a trip down the road with me.

I’m not used to this speed of life. I love to be productive. I love to be busy. When I had a job, I always got the most done under a time pressure. Tell me that this campaign brief needed to be written by next week, I’d procrastinate making cups of tea and re-organising the filing. Tell me it was due by the end of the day, I’d have that and about six other tasks done and dusted with time to spare.

Some days, I get so frustrated by this new speed. I want to be doing doing doing, and all this sitting around holding the one toy she likes while she inspects it intently for the hundredth time… Can’t she just learn to grab it already??

I’m currently reading my way through a book called Slow Church. Last week I read a passage where the authors quote from the book Compassion: A Reflection on Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison. It said this:

“They define impatience as an “inner restlessness… (that is) experiencing the moment as empty, useless, meaningless. It is wanting to escape from the here and now as soon as possible.””

This was one of those moments when the words seem to jump out the page and whack you over the head.

I’ve tended to define patience as long-suffering, which I then redefine as the necessary ability to put up with really annoying people. This definition though, it brings it right into my world today. It brings it down down to that sofa where I sit shaking the owl-shaped rattle in front of my wide-eyed two month old’s face.

Do I really see these moments as meaningless? Recognising that I sometimes do hurts. I don’t want to feel that way about any time I spend with my precious girl. And yet, I’ve become so accustomed to a certain pace of life, a way of defining a moment’s meaning by how much it produces.

The authors of Slow Church went on to write, “If we as God’s people have any hope at all of slowing down and savoring the richness of life and God’s abundant goodness, then we have to address this impatience that lies deep in our hearts.” 

I picked up this book because its title appeals to me. I’ve spent time and effort the past couple of years, learning to appreciate the goodness that comes in the slow moments – over long dinners with good friends; in late night conversations with my husband on our balcony; on journeys to new destinations as I became happy to just get lost and see what will find me.

But I’m beginning to recognise that I’ve only been scratching the surface. This richness and abundance of life is available in every moment, not just the ones I manufacture and plan to be that way.

Maybe this is something I’ll start to learn through being a mother to my wee girl. She goes determinedly at her own pace. There’s no trying to speed her up or slow her down. She will choose to dwell in each moment for just as long as she needs to, pulling each fragment of meaning from it, without even realising she does so.

It’s not an easy lesson. I still feel the emptiness of not being productive as I’ve come to define it. But I want to fill up that emptiness with the true abundance there is to be found here.

After all, the first word used to describe love in that most famous passage, is patience.

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  • Hannah

    You do put things so eloquently 🙂 and this feeling is learned; as you can see from your baby, she has no sense of “productivity” – so you can unlearn it too! Took me a long time. Love to you lovelies xx

    • fiona lynne

      Yes you’re right. I wonder if there’s a way I can help her not learn it from the start? I guess the key is my unlearning it first, since she’ll take so many of her cues from me as she grows up. xxx

  • Such a great quote, Fiona, and so convicting. I’ll be chewing on it for a while, trying to stay with the uneasiness that the present moment sometimes brings. I’m learning to find abundance in the here-and-now alongside you!

    • fiona lynne

      It’s a lifelong journey I think. While I was writing I was reminded of when Paul wrote “I have learnt the secret of being content in any situation…” Oh to discover that secret too!

  • Mindful Mimi

    You are being productive Fi, as you are shaping your daughter’s life and creating her happiness. That is huge!
    We all recognize that feeling, and it won’t go away as they get older and you get ‘more time’ but you do become more aware if those happy, fleeting moments and appreciate them, really being ‘in’ them

    • fiona lynne

      Yes! A number of people have reminded me of this – it’s such a different kind of productivity so I need the reminding, but I know it’s true.

  • Jo Cameron Duguid

    Another excellent post, Fiona. It put me in mind of people being described as “in their second childhood” when they get older. Just before I retired, one of the managers at work accused me of “moving with glacial slowness”. Instead of seeing this as a criticism, I decided to adopt it as my intention for retirement. I just want to “move with glacial slowness”, not be hurried and chivvied along, just take my time and focus on being a human being rather than a human doing. It takes a lot of determination to hold out against the pace of modern life and all its technological complications, and you’re privileged to have a tiny teacher at hand. It’s so lovely that Kaya’s “moving with glacial slowness” too. Hmmm. Didn’t somebody say something once about us all needing to become as little children….
    Love, Jo

    • fiona lynne

      I love that intention. And that’s a phrase I need to remember – “a human being rather than a human doing”. Hope you’ll get to meet my tiny teacher in person one of these days…

      • Jo Cameron Duguid

        Soon! Soon. We’ll be in Oxford for the weekend of 25th/26th October!