Patience. Just the act of typing the word brings the opposite response. Impatience.
Patience is a concept and a practice that is fading in a society that seems to get faster and more efficient.
Pin numbers? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Give me PayPass.
People at check-outs? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Give me self-service.
Making a phone call? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Give me snapchat.
Cooking dinner? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Give me drive-thru or, even better, home-delivery.
Let’s be honest, none of us really like waiting.
I’m a husband. I’m a Dad to seven children. I’m a Pastor. I’m a leader, brother and friend. My life is way too full to have to abide such time-wasting concepts as patience. And yet it’s precisely because my life is so full that patience is of such importance to how I live.
Patience is the act and art of waiting well.
More than enduring, becoming resolved to, or tolerating the wait I increasingly understand patience to be about embracing the opportunity that comes from waiting. Patience is the process of actively and hopefully waiting.
I don’t believe it’s an accident that the first word Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13 is patient.
God is love and God is patient. Patience is part of the character of God. God is not in a hurry. And we often find this to be a key point of frustration in our relationship with God.
“How long, LORD?” the Psalmist cries.
“Hurry up God! Answer my prayer already!” is often our own cry.
A truth that is often lost on us is that God’s patience and unhurried nature is actually a REALLY GOOD thing for us human beings. For two reasons.
Firstly, because God spends a lot more time waiting for us than we wait for Him.
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God’s heart is that everyone would be restored to relationship with Him and He’s willing to wait it out. God’s patience give us the opportunity to discover the wonder of relationship with Him.
Secondly, because patience is part of the character of God it can be part of our character too.
Part of the fruit of the Spirit is patience. This means that we can receive the gift of patience for our lives. Which is a really good thing because God often makes us wait. The reason He makes us wait is to encourage growth and character development. That’s what true discipline is. It’s not about punishment, it’s about bringing positive change in our lives. Sometimes that change is slow. Sometimes it needs to be slow or we wouldn’t cope. Without patience, waiting as part of growth and character development is excruciatingly painful.
Patience truly is a gift.
Right now I’m sitting in an airport terminal waiting to go home. Due to incompetence (mostly my own) I have a 4-hour wait. As I sit here I am reminded of a Michael Hyatt post in which he poses A Question That Changes Everything – “what does this experience make possible?”
The slight variation I would make to this question is – what does this wait make possible?
So far this wait has made many things possible.
It has allowed me to share a powerpoint with someone (as we wait for our phones to charge) and chat with them about their passion for drumming.
It has allowed me to enjoy a really good coffee.
It has allowed me to write this post.
It has allowed me to catch up on email.
It has allowed me to phone people that have been on my heart and encourage them.
It has allowed me to pray.
It has allowed me to share a powerpoint with someone else (as we wait for our laptops to charge) and chat with them about their heartbreak at having to leave behind someone they love.
It has allowed me to people watch (a favourite pastime) and pray silently for them as they embrace, greet each other or race past me.
It has allowed me to enjoy another really good coffee.
This is patience. Waiting well and embracing the opportunities that present themselves. Opportunities for relationship. Opportunities for conversation and encouragement. Opportunities for reflection (and good coffee).
Impatience would have robbed me of these opportunities.
My personal prayer is that I would be increasingly patient as God grows my character and as I endeavour to embody Jesus’ love in my life.
This is my prayer for you too.
OVER TO YOU
What does patience mean to you?
What are the things you are waiting for in your life?
When you find yourself waiting what are the opportunities that present themselves and how can you seek to embrace them more and more?