“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~Ephesians 4:2
First off – thanks for patiently waiting for this final post of Fruit of the Spirit. It wasn’t intentional to make you wait for a post on patience but with making the announcement about the decision to cancel our summer 2020 programs at IOLBC earlier this week, I have been swamped. For more information, click HERE.
As a kid, when I was getting frustrated that my family wasn’t moving faster to honor my wishes and desires, my mom would start singing the chorus to a very specific song:
I’m not going to lie. It annoyed me. A lot. I gave her some pretty epic eye rolls and sighs of exasperation. She most certainly had to have a lot of patience with me at time throughout my childhood. But even in the midst of the annoyance, it was an effective reminder to slow down, calm down, and to stop trying to control the other members of my family.
Of all the fruits of the spirit, this is the one I am admittedly the most cautious in praying for. Why? Because it never seems to fail that when you ask God to give you more patience, more chances to practice patience are placed in your life. More than once I have been tempted to scream in frustration, “Give me patience NOW God!” I have a hunch we have all been there at some point.
We are all experiencing a lot of opportunities to learn patience right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all waiting for the social distancing restrictions to be lifted, for our favorite restaurant or hair salon to open again, to be able to celebrate big events like weddings again, and to be able to embrace loved ones who either live far away or who are in the high risk category.
We are learning just how much patience is needed to live in harmony with our families 24/7. Kids are home and trying to do school online. Parents are trying to work from home at the same time. Parks are closed so we can’t go there with the kids. We aren’t supposed to be having friends over or going out to visit friends and so we play the millionth game of Candy Land or Uno, or put in that favorite kids movie for the hundredth time.
While we are so thankful to have technology which enables to call, video chat, share photos, and still generally be part of each other’s lives, we are also learning just how much patience technology can require. The co-worker who won’t mute their microphone on the video conference call. The device that freezes. The internet that crashes. The battery, you suddenly remember, isn’t charged.
And those are just some of the ways COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have allowed us to more deeply experience patience. Many of us are still learning patience because we are waiting to hear about a job offer. Or wondering when we will meet the love of our life. Or waiting for a phone call from a friend. Or waiting for a baby to be born. So much of life already requires us to have patience while we wait.
Perhaps one of the most powerful things for me to personally remember is that Jesus is our example of being able to have patience for a very long time with people and situations which can be rather frustrating. In Matthew 17, a man brings his son to Jesus asking for healing from a demon which possessed the boy. He had asked the disciples but there were unable to heal him. In verse 17 I can just hear the deep sigh as Jesus says, “You unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Even Jesus needed to remind himself to be patient at times.
You see, Jesus hadn’t just been patient with people since he was born to Mary in a manger in Bethlehem. He has been patient with humanity since the day Eve believed the serpent and ate from the one tree she was supposed to leave alone in the garden.
God has had a lot of practice being patient with His creation of mankind. And I love that. Because I know I continue to test the limits of his patience on a regular basis.
Just like Herbert the snail, I have learned to be more patient in my adult years than I was in my childhood. It has helped me to be more aware of how I react to situations and circumstances which I find frustrating. It has helped me to better know when to let things go and when to push a little harder. It has helped me remember that it is pretty much never all about me because my choices affect others around me in some way.
I know being patient is hard right now. We want to know when life can return to normal again. We want to be able to tell our kids good news and give them something to look forward to rather than telling them that yet another thing has been cancelled or closed.
But take this time to give some serious thought as to what you want to rush to get back to when everything opens up again. How much life was each activity really bringing into your life, your child’s life, and the life of your family as a whole? What have you newly discovered (or re-discovered) about yourself and your family which should be considered as you think about life going forward? Someone once told me to stop saying you were too busy to do something or spend time with someone but to instead say the activity or the person was not a priority for how you spent your time. Try it. It’s eye opening.
Patience isn’t necessarily all about sitting in silence waiting to hear an audible word from God about something. It can be. But so much more of it is about inviting us to trust Jesus – and His impeccable timing – with our thoughts, time, relationships, and resources. So while you wait for social distancing to end, or any other happenings in your life, put your trust in God’s timing and plan for everything. And then head out to take care of all those day to day tasks (why do the kids insist on eating every, single day?!) to which you know you are called while you wait.
Make a list of those things which you are always saying you don’t have time to do. Now try framing them in terms of what takes priority in your life when it comes to where you invest your time and energy. Which items are you OK with not being priorities? Which items need to be made a higher priority? And what is taking up your time and energy right now that shouldn’t be?
Think about a person in your life who is trying your patience right now. Resolve to pray for them intentionally at least once a day. Ask God to help you know how to best show them love and kindness.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to trust God while you wait for an answer to prayer or a circumstance to change is simple worship him. Check out the song in the video below to get you started: