Paul celebrates what he experiences as Christ’s remarkable patience. It isn’t surprising that Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit includes patience. (See Galatians 5:22.) As we attempt to embody the biblical call to patience, we run smack into a culture that values speed. Our microwave society is accustomed to power and productivity at our fingertips: strike a match and the fire erupts; turn a key and a two-ton automobile springs into motion; erase a thousand words by hitting “delete.” We want to get the job done, respond with an instant solution, and find the answer right now. Our bodies often register impatience before we do. We tap our fingers on the table, swing a leg in rhythm, or pace the floor because quiet waiting is too uncomfortable.
Patience is often defined as “long-suffering” or “forbearance.” All of us who have waited for a broken bone to heal or an illness to run its course know about forced lessons in patience. Our intellect tells us that impatience doesn’t hurry the healing any more than it makes a long line at the supermarket move faster. So the ability to hang in there when the going gets tough is a virtue worth developing.
Nowhere is patience more necessary than in the arena of spiritual growth. After all, growing in grace sometimes feels like watching the grass grow. We all have experiences of falling off the spiritual rails only to be led back on track by the patience of others and of God. Surely we can be as patient with our plodding progress as God is! Then we can pass that serenity on to everyone we meet.
How does impatience show up in your life? Notice the physical and emotional clues—heavy sighs, fidgeting, harsh judgments. As you become aware of each sign, breathe in the patience of God, then breathe out your irritation.
The apparent message of Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 is total despair, but verse 27 offers a soft note of grace. God’s redemptive purposes for the people will not ultimately be thwarted. Psalm 14 suggests that foolishness and perversity characterize all humanity, but God can gather from among sinful humankind a community of people who will nd their refuge in God. In First Timothy, the writer points to his own life as an example of God’s ability to reclaim and redeem persons. Luke 15 suggests how far God is willing to go to reclaim the lost. The par- ables of the lost sheep and the lost coin portray God as remark- ably and even recklessly active in pursuit of wayward persons.
• Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. When have you made a mess of things and suffered the consequences? What invitation surfaced from that situation?
• Read Psalm 14. How do you feel when you are out of touch with God’s call? What practices or disciplines do you employ to recognize God’s faithfulness?
• Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. What can you do today that will show mercy and compassion to another?
• Read Luke 15:1-10. When have you felt God pursuing you? How did this feel like a gracious invitation rather than con- demnation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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