I’m going to share one of the best kept church-lady secrets of all time. Right here on the internet. Scandal and outrage are sure to follow. But you deserve to know. We all need to know the truth. The ramifications are too serious for those who don’t know.
We think we’re doing the right thing. We think we are seeking God’s best. We are well-intentioned, but are totally unprepared for the consequences.
So here it is. You should never
under any circumstances
The prophet Micah challenges us to test God in the area of tithing. You will be blessed, he says. Feel free to test God’s word on this one.
Well, the same thing is true of patience. You WILL be tested--thoroughly, relentlessly, almost abusively when you pray for patience. One way or another, God will see to it you have EVERY opportunity to learn to be patient.
This topic came up in a group of church ladies the other night. “Never pray for patience!” Someone said.
“What?!” My friend said. This friend's daughter was in and out of the hospital several times over Christmas, who is very pregnant and has had a couple of Dr. visits with concerns over that, and whose husband is a police officer. “I always pray for patience! Every day!”
“NO!” came the reply.
“You’re always a patient because you’re praying for patience!” Another lady chimed in.
All in all, it was a rather hilarious conversation, but it got me thinking. God is good at what he does. Very good. He’s had years and years of experience molding and forming willing people into jars of clay in which to hold his treasure.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that if there were a better way to cultivate patience than filling life with varying degrees of frustration, He would have come up with it by now.
The “somethings” are generally out of our control. We wait on that really fabulous red pea coat to go one sale, traffic, job offers, and diagnoses. We cannot bend the will of the Macy’s buyers, the left turn signal, the corporate head honcho who would rather ski in Aspen than take the time to decide the fate of a lowly interviewee, or the so-called experts testing and evaluating every nuance of a helpless child. So we wait.
Did you know that in Spanish the word “wait” is the exact same as the word for “hope?” Esparansa, which is just a beautiful sounding word. (Just make sure you pronounce the letter A as ah not the English short a sound or it doesn't sound pretty at all). I really love that it’s the same word, because waiting without hope is about the most desperate thing I can imagine. We hope for the best. We rest in God’s promises. We wait on the Lord. Or we try to. It’s easier in theory.
Situations requiring waiting on something seem to pop up more frequently when you pray for patience.
Then there’s the “someones.” You know who yours is. It’s the someone who always brings out the worst in us. Who practically force us to behave badly by what they say (or imply) and what they do (or don’t do). We react either in action or in daydream, but always out of frustration. Unless we give it to God, smile and nod. Accept the truth that we can’t change them…
Easier in theory. These people ooze out of the woodwork when you start praying for patience.
I believe it was the oft quoted (at least on this blog) Beth Moore who compared the people we have to wait on to sand paper. To the extent we put up with their roughness, our surfaces will be smoothed. Isn’t that the truth? If we shirk the rough edged people in our lives, we are missing the opportunity to have our own edges polished.
So we can laugh about not praying for patience. We can find loopholes and pray for everything BUT patience, but learning to wait on situations and people is a kind of crucial element to the Christian walk. Unfortunately, the singular nature of the Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t allow us to pick and choose which aspects we want to live and the ones we don’t want.
I’m sorry to say we’re kind of stuck having to pray for patience. So we will pray for it. And we will pray for the strength and tools to handle the gauntlet ahead of us. We will pray that we will recognize the test for what it is—an opportunity for refinement rather than a flaming arrow meant to bring us down.
We can try praying in loopholes, but if we are truly seeking God, the loopholes bring us right back to the same round of refinement. Maybe God will go a little easier, but it will also take a lot longer. The choice is ours. Meet the challenge head on, or sneak around the long way. Knowing exactly what we are against going in is a pretty good part of the battle, if you ask me.