My wonderful mother-in-law was a “stitcher”: she literally stitched all sorts of things and once owned a needlework shop. I treasure the things she made including a prayer sampler that reads, “Lord, grant me patience . . .but HURRY. Amen.” I get it. I can be patient but just now, patience is in short supply.
Paul wrote in Romans (8:25) If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Wow. I take some consolation that the man who wrote that marvelous line was running around organizing, encouraging, correcting and building the Church. But still: to wait with patience.
We need patience and it is a spiritual gift as Paul testifies in Galatians (5:22), but I think there are things we can do to cultivate it as one can any spiritual gift. Exercising patience does not mean lapsing into inactivity. (Again, note Paul’s pace even as he invited Christians to live in patience.) Patience is a point-of-view that comes from doing what one can, leaving to God the things that are God’s, and asking God to give you peace as you made that discrimination. Sounds roughly like putting the Serenity Prayer into practice? (You can find that prayer in The United Methodist Hymnal at No. 459.)
Being patient cannot be confused with how we feel, though it often is. You can wait patiently for some good day, doing your part in the interim, and still experience the frustration and unease that lots of folks know: hence Paul’s admonition to hope and wait, never suggesting that people are happy for it.
Being patient is not an excuse for abuse: social injustice has to end and we have to do the work that is required to address wrongs too long tolerated and excused with the injunction that the people who needed justice just needed to wait. Being patient doesn’t mean you like a stay-at-home order; it does mean that you ask God to give you the Spirit to accept what you don’t like in order to care for your neighbor as you want them to care for you.
Being patient means we are declaring to the world that we know we are not the center of existence; being patient allows us to declare to others that Christ is central to our life. Our patience witnesses to our trust in God at work in Jesus with us doing our part with the gifts God has given us.
I pray for patience for myself. I ask you to do the same, especially when you are disappointed or hurt. And while being patient, work for a better day in this broken world. John Wesley once remarked that Christians “live in patience knowing that it is God at work in us while working as if the needed change is simply ours to do.”
Lord, give me patience, but hurry. Amen.
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