I don’t know about you, but I am often impatient for change. OK, it isn’t just change—I am often impatient, period. There are many ways this shows up—I will first mention a few of the unimportant situations (yet it is these types of circumstances that I somehow allow to alter my attitude for the worst, at least temporarily): waiting in line at Costco when I know I am going to be a few minutes late to pick up one of my kids somewhere; waiting for my computer to download something I need to read or work with; taking the time to figure out how to fix my computer when it is acting up (I am the worst at patience with technology). Then there are the more serious, long-term waiting situations: waiting for a relationship to heal; waiting for my heart to heal from pain I have experienced; waiting for a long-desired circumstance that I am trusting God for and have done all that I can to prepare for; waiting for my own growth or growth areas in my children’s lives.
That last one really strikes a chord right now, particularly in relation to my parenting. I am so thankful for Godly wisdom about parenting from God’s Word, insightful books, wise friends, asking for God’s help, and just plain experience. Yet somehow knowing what is good to do doesn’t always translate into it working perfectly. Patience is what I still need a big dose of. Why? Because change doesn’t come in a day; because impatience leads me to sin against my children; because the goal of parenting is helping our children to grow in heart, mind and body, not just behavior. Patience. It seems like it should be a simple word, a simple thing. Wait…
Waiting is not simple. It is funny having a 4 year old all of a sudden again because I am experiencing the stage “in isolation” so to speak, without the 3 year old part and without being involved in character formation during the first few years. I think 4 year olds in general are not the best at the “wait” concept, but it is particularly hard for this precious little one. For example, I handed her a frozen Go-gurt and cut off the end, then I said “wait just a minute for it to unfreeze enough to push it up.” 20 seconds later, the other end had been bitten off and she is wondering why the yogurt wouldn’t come out… I then had to explain that it is hard to eat with both sides opened up… Waiting is hard.
But waiting is important. As an adult, I have come to realize just how little I control outcomes. I often cannot make much of anything happen, and certainly can’t dictate the timing. So I have to wait; not waiting impassively, but waiting actively. I wait by investing time, energy and work, and entrusting the results to God. But that sounds easier than it is—trust God; simple, right? But somehow I get tired of repeating the same advice for the 500th time to my ten year old. He is super awesome, but somehow certain principles just don’t take root very easily. I need God’s kind of patience to be faithful and wait on God’s timing, not my idea of patience…
Absent miracles (which God can do, though he usually chooses to use natural growth processes as he designed them), God’s normal way of functioning is with gradual growth that occurs over time when the right circumstances and nourishment are present. There are many verses in the Bible to encourage me to keep my focus on planting, watering, nourishing, and waiting on the Lord. For example, I have been reading in the prophets lately and noticing just how much patience God had for his people, and also how much patience the people had to have in waiting on God to fulfill his promises—still hard even though they knew he was a faithful God full of steadfast love. One place that stuck out to me is in Lamentations. Before the great hopeful statements in Lamentations 3:21-23, the prophet says in verse 18 “my endurance has perished…” Then he cries out: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…” and mentions the Lord’s steadfast love and mercy and faithfulness! It reminds me that my hope is not based on my endurance or even my own ability to keep hoping, but in God and choosing to remember who he is. Verse 24 then affirms that “I will hope in Him.” This is a decision of the will.
Contrast modern society’s instant gratification focus. In this day and age, if we want something, we order it online. We even can get rush shipping. If we text someone, we get worried if they don’t respond within the hour. And then there is the modern “life hack” concepts that show up in hashtags, etc., where we are always looking for shortcuts to success and solutions, etc… It is like people think they deserve to get what they want faster. They are so used to fingertip solutions that they don’t think anything should take a long time and require persistence and perseverance.
Bottom line: patience is hard. But it is one of the first fruits of the spirit, and the first descriptive word that is tied to “love” in 1 Corinthians 13. In other words, if I truly love someone, I will show them patience again and again. I am so thankful that God’s steadfast perfect love means he has shown me patience again and again… So even if it isn’t vogue in this fast paced society we are in, I want to keep learning about patience; I want to keep asking God to help me grow in patience; I want to walk in the Spirit so I can display patience. I will keep my focus on God’s steadfast love and mercy, and continue to hope for change in God’s timing.