At a recent conference, author Bob Goff said, “If you want a radish, it takes a seed and twenty days. But, if you want a pear, it takes a seed and seven years. I’ve just assumed that some things will take a little longer… which means sometimes we need to chill out!”

Truthfully, sometimes I just need to chill out.

Some great things happen quickly in life. Maybe you’re great in sports – getting in shape doesn’t take the same effort for you as it does for others of us (I’m jealous by the way). For some people, they met the love of their life and got married within just a few months. Perhaps you are gifted at making a buck or two, or starting a new business without a bunch of preparation. That’s great!

Maintaining Patience in an Impatient World

However, some great things – maybe most great things – don’t happen quickly. They take a lot of patience and persistence. For me, I met the love of my life in college, but neither of us knew it for a while. It took four years of friendship (and two years of dating).

For most of us, we know the joy of getting a promotion after years of slogging it out in an internship, or the excitement that comes from a graduation ceremony because it represented years and years of hard work and studying.

We also know the heartbreak that comes from a relationship where we had a lot of patience and persistence, only to see it not work out. Or the anxiety the comes when we’ve put in a bunch of work at the same company or degree program, wondering if it will ever pay off or if we will finally get noticed.

All of this begs an important question: how do you know when to pull the plug on something and when is it worth waiting something out? When do we need to be patient and just chill out, and when do we need to be proactive and make a change?

I can’t answer that question for you. It would be silly of me to try because each situation we face is unique. But, there are a few generalities that ground me when I find myself feeling impatient, or at the very least are worth considering when I’m thinking of jumping ship on something in my life.

Generality #1: Quicker does not equal better

“If it were meant to be, it wouldn’t be this hard or take this long!”

Many of us have said that or thought that at some point. We often especially think love should come easy or quickly, and if it doesn’t then it’s not meant to be and time to move on.

But, sometimes the best things in life take a long time to develop. Food from a crockpot is almost always better than something that is microwaved.

We savor the things that required more patience. The things I’m most proud of came about as a result of significant persistence. Chances are the same is true for you too.

Generality #2: Appearances can be deceiving

Growth isn’t always visible.

I remember doing my first science experiment in kindergarten – I’m sure you did something similar. We were instructed to drop a seed into a Dixie cup and then fill it with dirt.

In a season where something seems dormant, perhaps there is more going on than meets the eye.

Every day we would soak the Dixie cup with water. For the first few days, I approached my cup with excitement and anticipation. And for each of those first few days, there was a whole lot of nothing going on in that cup. It didn’t take long for me to give up on it. If it were up to me, I would have thrown it away.

But something was happening, I just didn’t see it. There was a lot going on beneath the soil, which set the stage for when a little plant would sprout above the surface.

That little experiment should remind all of us how bad we are at evaluating growth. In a season where something seems dormant, perhaps there is more going on than meets the eye. We should all be cautious about uprooting when it may be that a plant is just about to sprout in that job or relationship.

Generality #3: Faithfulness is underrated

Starting something new is fun. It’s energizing to buy the new car, move to the new city, or start a new relationship.

Staying put is often branded as boring and dull.

However, I think faithfulness should be even sexier than starting something new. The marriages I admire the most are from people who fought the hard fight and loved one another through thick and thin. You probably admire these relationships too.

Or, we all think of stories of people who labored in a profession for decades, putting their heart and soul into making a difference in that specific area. Those are the retirement parties that inspire all of us.

While I don’t subscribe to his philosophy, there’s a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche I really like. He said, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is… that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

A long obedience in the same direction… I like that a lot.

An author who has had a profound influence on me, Eugene Peterson (who wrote a wildly popular translation of the Bible called The Message), titled a book on faithfulness and following God called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Not only did he write the book, he lived it. Peterson died this past week at the age of 85. He is being widely and fondly remembered today because of his steady faithfulness as a husband, pastor, and friend.

I want to be known as faithful and patient too. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ever make changes or jump at new opportunities. But, it does make me pause when I feel the tug to start something new.

In the words of Bob Goff, sometimes I just need to chill out.

Photo by Tyler Milligan on Unsplash
Some great things – maybe most great things - don’t happen quickly. How do we know when to have patience, and when to be proactive and make a change?