Are you patient? Heather Thompson Day reshapes our understanding of the whole concept.
My Turn to Wait
By Heather Thompson Day
My Nana had ten children. She was a single mother, an African American, and lived in the inner city of Boston. She had one dream: to get a college education. When you are a single female raising ten children in the inner city as a minority, you don’t get to chase dreams like that. She had reality to deal with. It wasn’t her turn to chase after her passions. So she put her dreams into her children. She made sure every single one of them attended higher education. Please let that sink in. My Nana raised ten children as a single mother in the inner city and every single one of them went to college. Just because it’s not your turn doesn’t mean you can’t make sure it becomes someone else’s.
When she was able to dream for herself again, her mind wandered back to her own aspirations. She had every reason in the book to settle. She had been a good mother, she raised successful children, and she stayed committed to her faith. She had done everything right, and no one would have thought she fell short if motherhood was her only accomplishment. And yet, in her seventies, my Nana attended Harvard University. Harvard. In her seventies.
In many ways, she is the reason I started studying stories. That one story of my Nana sitting in a Harvard classroom, or walking across the Harvard campus, made me believe that I, too, could dream crazy dreams, and God would bring me to my purpose if I could be patient. Patience does not come naturally to a millennial. It has been the sharpest sword I have ever held, and also has cut the deepest. I am now the wise age of thirty-three years old, and it has taken me thirty-three years to learn patience is the key to satisfaction, to wisdom, to happiness, and to faith. The only problem is . . . no one has it.
We can’t wait. None of us. We don’t watch television week to week, we binge entire seasons in forty-eight hours. We don’t call people on the phone, we text we are almost there and then honk from the driveway. My generation is even killing cereal. No one wants to take the time to pour cereal into a bowl and deal with the potential mishaps that come with one hand on the steering wheel and the other balancing milk and a spoon. Hand me a protein bar and a yogurt shake and let me be efficient. We simply can’t wait. Patience is a coffin. But what if patience is also necessary?
“You have all the talent,” my mentor once said to me. “What you don’t have, Heather, and what you cannot rush, is experience.”
I have never forgotten these words. It reoriented my entire thought process. What if you aren’t waiting on talent? What if right now you have what it takes to apply for that job? What if you already have what it takes to go on that date? What if the marriage, the career, and the promotion are all well within your reach? What if it isn’t a matter of talent at all that God is stalling you on? What if you are waiting on experience? And what if experience can’t be rushed?
Patience is our ability to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset. Having patience does not mean you have to resign yourself to negative outcomes, it means you are taking power over your emotions in a delay. Patience is the ability to step back and regroup. It is the capacity to not see delay as a threat to where we are going.
So, take a minute and imagine. Whatever it is right now you know It’s Not Your Turn for, what could be a possible benefit of this delay? If Nana had gone to Harvard at thirty years old, that would have been amazing, but there is something special about a woman who won’t quit even in her seventies. It says so much about who she was. She couldn’t have possibly known her delay would be my inspiration. There is no way she could have known her story of waiting would give me the gift of patience two generations later. What if more than God is trying to give you success, he is trying to give you a story?
Heather Thompson Day is associate professor of communication at Colorado Christian University and an interdenominational speaker and contributor for Religion News Service, Newsweek, and the Barna Group. She runs an online community called I'm That Wife and is the author of It's Not Your Turn.Connect with Heather on Twitter and Instagram.