Patience may be a virtue, but it’s definitely not my strong suit. I hate to wait. H-A-T-E it. But somewhere back in my teens, I made the mistake of asking God for patience and—because God loves me and also has a tremendous sense of humor—rather than miraculously transform my nature overnight into a blissfully forbearing abider, God has given me zillions of opportunities to practice what I asked for. It’s been a hard lesson learned.
Abide. It means to wait for something, patiently. Abiding is no easy feat, especially not in a culture that is success-driven, instant-gratification-oriented, and pathologically impatient.
Waiting is a part of the human condition. Waiting for the train to come at rush hour. Waiting for the next big break, for regime change in the White House, for the hearts of Americans to turn softly toward their brothers and sisters in the developing world. We wait.
By exercising the spiritual gift of abiding, gracefully or begrudgingly, patience has slowly begun to take hold in me. At the times when I’m feeling the most impatient and the least able to abide, my thoughts turn to Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, the quintessential slacker and big-hearted antihero of Joel and Ethan Coens’ film The Big Lebowski.
The Dude is most certainly a lazy man, but he also may be what the Jewish tradition might call a lamed vavnik—one of the 36 righteous souls so pure that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders (even if they have no idea that it does). In the final scene of the Coens’ 1998 comic masterpiece, the Dude runs into a 10-gallon-hat-wearing fellow known as “The Stranger” at the bar of the local bowling alley. “Take it easy, Dude,” the Stranger tells him, “and I know that you will.”
“Mwelp,” the Dude says, shrugging, “the Dude abides.”