On Track Meets, Patience, and Delight
And picking a word of the year.
When I was in high school, most Saturdays in the spring were spent at track meets. The gun fired, and my feet burst out of the starting blocks; my heart pounded, and I sprinted down the track. For two years, I was an average sprinter, mediocre at best. But during my junior year, all the days, weeks, and months of training paid off. I broke three school records, and my relay team broke another one.
On race days, with my spikes clawing into the rubber—I didn’t overthink what I was doing. My feet and head were in sync. The repetitiveness of practice during the week improved my weaknesses and prepared me for the competition.
Recently, during a sermon, my Pastor said, “Praying for patience and gratitude is a start, but it doesn’t mean you’ll all of a sudden be patient or filled with gratitude.” He paused. “God will provide opportunities to practice patience and gratitude.”
Admittedly, I often struggle to understand my Pastor’s interpretation of scripture. It all goes over my head. But this, this I heard. And his words tumbled into my stomach like a brick. I thought of all chances I missed to practice patience with my three kids over the years. I thought of the times I was impatient and rude to them. I didn’t see those moments for what they were—opportunities.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood outside their bedroom, with my head leaned against the door, praying, “God, give me more patience tomorrow.”
Then the next day, patience didn’t magically appear.
Somewhere along the way, I forgot that most skills need practice. They need worked like a muscle. Today, if I tried to sprint around a track, I would make it, but not as fast as I could 21 years ago—because I’m out of practice. (And well, I’m not 17 anymore.)
I assumed patience would become a part of me—that I could pray without making an effort.
But, like anything worth having, it takes work.
I’ve never picked a word of the year; it never really appealed to me. I’ve also wondered (but have felt stupid asking), “How does this work?” Do I sit around meditating, waiting for the word to appear like magic? Or do I pray about it and then hope that God tells me what my word should be? Or is it more like a wish, a hope, what I want my year to be like?
I’ve felt too awkward to ask anyone how this works, but I assume it’s a combination of all three things.
Recently, in a writing group I’m in, the word “delight” came up several times by a writer whose work I look up to. She was referring to the work of a mother and writer and being delighted by her kids.
It felt like a lightbulb went off. Delight. Yes, I want more of this. How can I get more of it?
How often have I wished away the days and the hard moments? How I’ve prayed to be patient, thinking if I had a little more patience—I could be a better mom and enjoy their childhoods a little more.
I think my pastor was onto something—I can’t just pray and hope for it to happen. It takes work too.
But what if I delight in it all a little more? And maybe the patience will come.
So for the first time, my word of the year is “Delight.”