When my sister Alyssa and I were young, our father always took the longest route imaginable when he chauffeured us to school—driving from one part of Rolla, Mo., to another seemingly by way of the Yukon. While he claimed this deranged detour was faster than all other options, it made no sense to us.
A drive that felt like seconds to Dad seemed like eons to us. Alyssa’s elementary school sat one mile from our house. It required just two turns to get there. She and I knew this because as children, we walked everywhere—and took shortcuts whenever possible. My sister and I had to preserve our childhood, after all. We needed time to sort baseball cards by brand and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Even better, Dad and Grandpa Jack had handcrafted wooden Gatling rubber band guns for us; it took time to line up our action figures and mow them down.
As the children of a minister, we probably should have carefully considered the words of Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (niv). We could have embraced patience and humored our hopeless father, whose inner odometer was clearly out of whack, but it wasn’t something that ever crossed our minds. Since becoming a dad, however, I have begun to understand that our father’s detour was never about shortcuts or promptness in the first place.
I looked at my father and saw a man in a dress shirt, slacks, and shiny shoes. I could not see that he had also clothed himself in patience.
Now that I have a daughter of my own, people say things like, “She’s going to grow up so fast. Enjoy her while she’s this age.” They say this as if the years might coldcock me and leave me unconscious until her high school graduation in 2030. And part of me thinks they’re right. No one ever told me adult life moved at such a rapid clip. Each day whizzes by faster. How did Dad deal with this when he was my age? He had not one, but two unruly children tugging on his pant legs, and a congregation of people pulling on the tails of his suit coat at church.
I thought about this recently as I walked with my daughter to a park down the street from our house. Writing deadlines loomed. As Evie toddled down the street with me, marveling at mailboxes and flowers and other curbside wonders, part of me resisted her pace. I needed to hurry home and get to work. But then I felt her hand in mine—a tiny and trusting thing—and yielded to her leisurely gait.
As soon as we had returned from our scenic walk, Evie shouted, “Bubbles!”
I had recently purchased a pair of old-fashioned wands for her. We soon sat, coaxing shy bubbles out into the world one at a time. In that moment, I understood why Dad took the longest shortcut imaginable.
I asked him the next time we were together. “It was about slowing down, wasn’t it?”
“It really was,” he said. “I knew that the day would just get away from me as soon as I got to work. I needed that extra time to catch my breath and enjoy some time with you two.”
Each morning before school, I looked at my father and saw a man in a dress shirt, slacks, and shiny shoes. I could not see that he had also clothed himself in patience so he could deal with the demands of adulthood.
Without patience, obligations—and the joys that come along with them—whiz by without registering in our minds. Like bubbles, they hover before us for a second before vanishing forever. When we clothe ourselves in patience, however, time ceases to be something we measure with a miser’s ruler and becomes the sacred space in which we live and breathe.