A couple weeks ago, we went shopping for seeds to plant in our garden. Over the years, we’ve planted a variety of things, including vegetables and fruits that are fun to watch grow, but which we haven’t actually enjoyed eating. So, this year, I insisted on planting only things we like to eat. We settled on tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and cantaloupe. (Yum.)
One of the options on the seed rack was asparagus, which I love to eat. So, I picked up the package, only to return it to the rack when I saw that the days to maturity were 730-something! More than two years?! I don’t have the patience for that! That’s an overwhelming amount of time to wait—nearly impossible to imagine that we could put seeds in the ground, protect that garden plot through two full years, and have harvestable, edible goodness … eventually. No, thank you.
For much of my younger life, I was labeled as “impatient … like your mother”. I didn’t like to wait—especially not for family members who were running behind when I was on time, nor for hot food to cool enough that I could eat it without burning myself, nor standing in line for … whatever. I was unwillingly to endure anything that didn’t provide immediate gratification, or that required stamina for tasks that needed steady attention to tedious details, or that required learning a lesson that didn’t come easily to me. Once I was ready for something, it needed to happen now.
Maybe it’s still true, that I’m impatient about some things. But as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to practice patience, at least under certain conditions. I’ve learned that some things take time—especially things that require depth … deep roots, layers of understanding, trust in relationship. And, apparently, growth of asparagus.
I’ve also learned that some things benefit from impatience. Sometimes action is more important than process, especially when people’s lives are directly at risk. We are wise to heed Dr. King’s warning against the “mythical concept of time” and advising those most oppressed “to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”* It is possible, after all, to idolize a patient process so much that one will never act.
“Patience is a virtue,” as the saying goes. And impatience, at times, saves lives. The artistry is in the application of discretion.
Maybe I will plant some asparagus seeds, after all.