“Prayer is very dangerous business… For all the benefits it offers of growing closer to God, it carries with it one element of risk: the possibility of change. In prayer we open ourselves to the chance that God will do something with us that we had not intended.”
As we wrapped up our time with our small group, it was announced that we would move on to the next fruit, patience, in one week. I didn’t miss this announcement and listened for the response. Maybe a little too quickly, there was a sarcastic chuckle and then I heard it, “Don’t pray for patience. You know what that means!”
But it is in our prayers we sometimes pray for patience. Our busy, get it done, check-it-off-the-list-so-I-can- forget-about-it lives sometimes don’t work that way and we find ourselves praying for patience, usually half-heartedly. Do you sometimes, like myself, catch your breath before uttering a quick prayer for patience in a difficult circumstance, and in that same breath consider your options? If I do ask for patience, what will God allow to teach me what I ask? And as Emilie Griffin puts it, does “something with me that I had not intended!
It’s difficult isn’t it? Waiting for something?
As a young child, I remember waiting (not very well), for Christmas morning. Sleep was impossible. Constant trips to my parent’s bedroom door every hour were inevitable, asking, “Is it time yet?” It was excruciating, the waiting for that something that was sure to please, that was good, that was anticipated, that for which I had asked. At five years of age, it had never been suggested to pray for patience, not that I would have understood.
Years later, I found myself waiting for a friend to call, to show up, to tell me words I needed to hear. Oh how patient I was for what I thought I wanted. I waited, and waited, and waited. But those words never came. Funny, I don’t remember praying about this particular time for patience at all.
I’d guess we all have stories of waiting for things, for people, and because this is a faith blog, I’ll throw in a story from the Word. These twelve men who had followed the Word, God’s Son, weren’t waiting. They were hiding. Jesus revealed himself to Mary and she had told them, but there was immense doubt. How could it be? Impossible! Jesus, alive? And so He appeared to them, yet one was absent. Jesus had lived with them for three years. He was a man and yet he was more. And one of the twelve who had listened, travelled, and witnessed incredible miracles and evidence of who He was found it hard to believe, even with the others in pressing agreement. Not unless he could see with his eyes and touch with his hands. And in merciful patience, He allowed it. Jesus allowed it. In that moment, salvation came in the form of seeing. And Thomas went on to believe and tell countless others of his encounter with Jesus and maybe how his loving patience was the proof he needed to believe.
It’s our human nature. We have to see, we have to touch, we have to check off our list to see progress, we have to get things done. We have to do. But things take time. People take time, often longer than we are willing to give. But then, this is found:
“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience is salvation.” 2 Peter 3:15
And my mind jumps to a 92 year old man, restless in bed, missing his love for four years now. We had prayed, we had talked, we had prayed for his soul. His past was haunting – all that he’d done. This is not the man I knew, my grandpa. I see who Jesus sees and Jesus is patient, yet I am not, counting what seem like hours left of his old life. Jesus came in a dream, knocking quietly. The heart shaped knob was turned and salvation came. 92 years of patience. Eternity will not miss him. He is home.
In all our impatience, our desire to be productive, to do and feel accomplished, what do we miss? What friendship? What conversation? What listening? What learning? What presence do we lack?
I’ve been turning the word over in my head and my heart. God is taking me through a season of patience, teaching me what it is and what it is not. Patience is not the absence of doing, but it is the action of being present, of being. It is enduring and abiding, even persistent. It is a remaining in or under. This is what Jesus teaches us through this fruit of the Spirit. This patience teaches us to keep coming back to ask, to give permission to wait and see for ourselves if that’s what it takes, although blessings of faith to those who believe even without seeing.
Friends, “…the Lord’s patience is salvation,” the same fruit of patience that exists for all of us who call Christ Lord and friend. Don’t miss it. Pray for it. Embrace it. There is something God intends to do with us.