They say patience is a virtue. Meaning it is associated with moral excellence, goodness – that it is something to be desired.
At least it used to be.
In today’s world of smart phones, drive thru coffee shops, and one-click purchasing online, instant gratification and immediacy have replaced patience as the virtue to strive for. Businesses pride themselves in getting customers in and out and on with their lives, airport security rushes people through as quick as can be, fast food restaurants aim to get people through the drive thru as fast as they can, doing everything they can to shave a couple more seconds off their best time.
Not only has this immediate need for fulfillment infiltrated nearly every facet of our culture, it has also managed to permeate even deeper – to our own minds and hearts. We want the stellar job now without the foundation of hard work and learning that needs to take place first. We want the blissful happiness of matrimony without the messiness and heartache that comes with the awkward stages of dating relationships. We want to be physically healthy and lose those 10 pounds today without the discipline of working out regularly or changing eating habits. We want to see emotional, relational, and spiritual growth and change in our friends, family, and ourselves NOW.
The desire for these changes is good, but we’ve forgotten the importance of the process. We’ve thrown patience out the window and have forgotten that the lasting things in this life take time to develop and grow. Sure, this world has come up with several ways to feed your need for “right now!”, but it leaves you with the attention span of a two-year-old, already turning to the next thing to satisfy. We need to get back to basics. Back to going after the things that last.
And realizing that those things take time. They take effort. Discipline. Hard work.
And most of all, patience.
I myself am in a state of transition now, back in my home state, ready to settle in for awhile. Ready to see crazy change and action in my home church, in myself, in the people around me. Ready to jump into a new job and hit the ground running. Already I find more often than not I get all fired up, excited and ready to see these things come to fruition now or next week!
But I am forgetting the process. I am completely ignoring and neglecting patience.
Too often we use waiting and patience interchangeably. But there are some significant differences between the two:
Wait – to not do something until something else happens; to remain inactive
Patience – as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, or irritation; diligence
Patience is a word the Lord has been speaking over this next season of my life at almost every turn. In stopping and reflecting on the word itself, I have come to realize three things patience is not, that set it apart from merely waiting. I had started believing these three things to be true when it comes to patience and because of it I ended up struggling to cultivate it in my own life. Maybe you can relate.
So, here are three things patience is NOT:
1. Passive – Patience is pretty much the opposite of passive. It is an active choice we must make, whereas waiting doesn’t require anything – you literally do nothing. Patience can certainly be a part of waiting, but it is not an automatic result. You choose to voice a complaint while waiting in line or being stuck in a traffic jam. You choose to give into frustration and anger at seeing the same patterns of behavior in your family or friends around you. Circumstances and life will happen to you, that’s a fact. To be patient requires your choice. It requires your constant and careful effort to choose not to dwell in the negativity and muck – it requires your diligence. It requires the renewing of your mind, filling it with truth and life, as Romans 12:2 reminds us. And that, my friends, is an active, daily discipline. It’s not a magical one-time experience. It is a daily choice. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
2. Immediate – The irony in this one is great. Our culture of instant gratification has become so ingrained into our patterns of thinking that we begin to pray and ask for patience, wanting it right then in the moment or the next day. But the very nature of patience is process – it happens carefully over a long period of time. Making the active choice to renew your mind every day for the next 30 years is what will reap deep roots of patience. It is learned, practiced. It is grown. It is cultivated. After all, the Bible makes it clear patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. In order for fruit to bear, it needs to be sown in quality soil so the roots may grow healthy and deep. It needs daily water and sunshine. It needs attention and care. That takes time. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22-23
3. Independent – Patience is not something easily cultivated on your own. Making these daily choices to renew your mind, changing your thought patterns, and persevering, especially in the face of trials and hardships all on your own strength is impossible. You need One whose strength will never falter, whose love will never run dry. Patience requires dependence on the One who has never and will never change. It requires relationship with the Father who is the ultimate example and source of patience. As Romans 12:12 tells us there’s more to it than actively bearing our circumstances and situations without giving into frustration and despair. It tells us there are other pieces at work here, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” There is thankfulness and praise at work here – rejoicing in the confident, unshakable hope we have in Christ. Turning your mind and attention off of yourself and onto Him. Paul then turns to what we’ve been talking about, persevering through circumstances. Then, he hits the nail on the head: keep on praying. Keep in constant communication with the Father. Talk to Him, cry with Him, rejoice with Him. The key words being with Him. Don’t shut Him out – don’t try to do it all on your own.
We’re living in a culture where immediacy rules the day, where lasting change is a rare phenomenon.
But if we go back to the basics, back to the endurance and discipline inherent in patience and process, we might just see more of our dreams and desires come to pass.
What’s something you hope to see happen in the upcoming year?
Are you willing to be patient?
First published on http://emilywerness.com/