The Patience Muscle

Our pastor mentioned something in the sermon on Sunday almost as an aside, but it rung so true with me.  Patience and self-control are like muscles.  Not only do you have to build up their strength in order to use them, you also have to give them a break.  You can’t flex a muscle over and over continuously without it giving out.  Patience is the same way.

Out of necessity,  I’ve become a far more patient person since having a baby.  Babies cry (duh), they need constant feeding, they wake you up in the middle of the night multiple times, and they will poop immediately after you change their diaper.  Carter Jane is also a very alert, very aware baby.  She knows what she wants and will communicate that the only way she knows how- whines, cries, and squeals.  It’s both amazing and exhausting to be the mother of a baby.  It also completely overwhelms my patience muscle.

So often we can be driving home from running errands and Carter Jane, both hungry and tired, will start to whine and cry in the back seat (did I mention she’s the only baby ever to find her car seat completely un-relaxing?  No drives around the block to get her to calm down and sleep, it is more like how can she be in the car seat for the minimum amount of time possible?).  I can calmly talk to her, sing to her, and not lose my cool.  All while driving over the speed limit, tailgating the unfortunate slow driver in front of me, or growling audibly at anyone who forgets to use their blinker.  I should really give out my car information so that you can avoid me on the roads.

I really have no option but to be patient with Carter Jane.  There’s no reasoning with her, disciplining her, or changing her behavior at this age.  (And to be fair, she also makes me laugh out loud sometimes with her silly faces, how she always sits with her ankles crossed, and how she thinks hats on other people are hilarious.) But giving her all my patience means I have no patience reserves left for anyone else.  Drivers, slow waiters, dogs, completely well-intentioned husbands…

Knowing that my patience muscle reaches its limit every day, I’ve been trying to be intentional about replenishing that patience and giving the muscle a break.  Simple things like making the bed in the morning so that every time I walk into our bedroom I don’t get aggravated have helped.  Working out (bless the Y for their free childcare), having someone else clean my house (such a luxury, but such a blessing), and going for walks with friends also help give that muscle a break.

But mostly, understanding how I work and the reasonable limitations of who I am right now  gives me a certain peace.  It helps me to give myself grace, and helps Nick understand how to help me (and what to avoid with me) in this season of life.

How about you?  Do you ever feel your patience muscle giving out?

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