Patience is a virtue.
Possess it if you can.
Seldom found in woman.
Never found in man.
I learned this little poem many years ago before I knew anything about patience really being virtuous. For years, it seemed to me, patience was a character quality possessed by those willing to sit and wait and do nothing. One of my favorite sayings was from Abraham Lincoln, “The things that come to those who wait are the things left behind by those who hustle.” I was an activist. An impatient activist! There were so many things to get done. Goals to accomplish. Wrongs to be righted! Dragons to slay!!
But life, or God, imposes circumstances that both require and teach you patience. I am in such a season. I had some due dates in my mind when things were supposed to happen. Now they’re past. Stuff didn’t happen. How do I deal with that? My typical reaction is to push. Nudge. Move the situation forward on something more like my timetable. But so far my pushing and nudging have come to naught. Now what?
For starters, I’ve started reading what the Bible has to say about patience and I’m learning there is wisdom in patience. Arghhh! I hate to admit that! The Bible says:
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.
I’ve re-discovered that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit”:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Reading this I wondered, “Why is PATIENCE a fruit of the Spirit? I can understand love. I can understand joy. They seem like activist words. Patience seems so—well—passive. Then I remembered a sermon I heard decades ago by Reuben Welch in which he said “When God tell us something about Himself, we need to listen.” Here’s what God says to describe Himself:
“And God passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”
God is not passive, but He is patient. Compassionate and gracious. Slooooooooow to anger.
I’m trying to absorb this all while my impatient activist inner self is waiting impatiently for something to happen when nothing seems to be happening. That’s another thing I remember from Reuben’s sermon. “When nothing is happening, something is happening because God is at work in the waiting.”
That’s how patience gets developed. Not in one fell swoop. Not in one dump load. But by accretion— in the waiting— when nothing seems to be happening but something, unseen, is happening. As I/we entrust ourselves to a faithful God who is at work in ways we cannot see.