Speak, Lord, in the Stillness

Patience is a virtue, or so goes the aphorism. It isn't talked about much, but is actually one of the fruits that faith ought to produce in Christians. Throughout scripture the concept is commented on[1] and modeled by countless believers leading to Paul's understanding in Galatians 5:22-23. Some may disagree with this statement, but I think that it is fair to say that Christians aren't necessarily known these days for their deft, humble display of patience. If anything (take denominational infighting, harsh ecumenical disputes, and incendiary interfaith rhetoric, for example) impatience in how we treat one another and our communities has become our calling card.

Patience must be otherworldly because it certainly isn't popular down here. Well, maybe amongst those from another era with other values, but not my spoiled whippersnapper generation. Then again, I know some especially indignant, ornery senior citizens too, so perhaps the blood that flows through all of our veins levels the playing field. We could all stand to learn a thing or two about patience.

It seems to me that it is such a mysteriously fleeting trait because patience involves the conscious decision to be still. And even the most contemplative among us likely struggles with that. I know that I do. One of my earliest childhood memories is of a family reunion in Savannah, Georgia. I was about four-years-old and vividly recall bouncing around, up-and-down with my sister to some rendition of "Funkin' for Jamaica," a 1980's Tom Browne hit that was blasting in the background of my relatives' land. I was a plump little something and so in the video, which will help greatly should my memory begin to wane, it is evident that after a few quick minutes I was running out of steam. Even as an adult I don't always like to sit still. It is just plain 'ol boring sometimes depending on why and where you are sitting still. For me, the only way to even remotely experience being "at rest" involves regularly casting whatever anxieties I may have on Jesus.[2]

Another problem with this business of patience is that there isn't a universal core or cookie-cutter formula with which to apply it to life's myriad of situations. It is not a Pythagorean Theorem that helps you find the length of one side of your life's right triangle. Patience in a biblical sense doesn't always mean that we are to literally cease-and-desist beginning anything new, yet there are times where it might require just that. Exercising patience in one situation may still carry with it the need to advocate for yourself or others. However, pressing the pause button on your life's boombox, it also could call for an outright stoppage of some problematic work or play that you are engaged in. It takes the Spirit's tutoring, biblical counsel, and prayers of trusted friends to identify what God is trying to tell you in being still through your particular circumstances.

Life's deepest treasures aren't best experienced by trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses who move at Mach speed, seemingly always able to do and acquire more than you. Patience involves slowing down in order to more fully trust the unknown to be handled well by the known God. It is sometimes incorrectly associated with laziness or excessive timidity by those who say that they will stop to smell the roses in their golden years when life slows down.[3] In their haste, however, they fail to recognize that life is cunning and will pass them by in a moment's notice if they don't put up a fight. That fight is rooted in the protest of patience. It isn't God's desire that we busy ourselves strategizing how we might break free from every encumbrance, but rather that we find strength in weakness.[4] In this world it is likely that patience shall forever be associated with weakness, so exercising it puts you in Jesus' footsteps on the way to both the cross and resurrection in him.

Even so, it is so easy to merely be fond of Jesus, but live devoid of God's ethical standards. We may attend church regularly, but as if in a religious freestyle cypher session conjure flamboyant prayers thinking that our pie-in-the-sky theology is really how God operates.[5] With blood-bought, fire-baptized evangelical fervor we can absolutely disregard the God who we claim to serve with all of our being.[6] The sooner that we accept our creation by God as human beings and not human doings the better off we will be, the more patient we can become with ourselves and others.

Our society isn't fond of waiting for much of anything. No matter the practical and spiritual truths contained therein, many people no longer wait for marriage to have sex. This has led to the commonplace influx of sons and daughters with no concept of what husbands and wives do because they have only ever known their parents to be father and mother -- if that. Consumer debt rates surely imply that we don't wait to purchase wants until we are first able to manage our needs well. Especially with so much accessibility to hands-free technology, for so many it is unfathomable to think that an incoming text-message or phone call need not be returned while operating a 5,000-pound automobile.[7] We just don't like waiting for anything or anyone. We want what we want when we want it, and more often than not we want it yesterday!

Patience takes trust and discernment, as God says to, "Be still, and know that I am God..."[8] It is the knowing that guides us, if we let it - knowing that everything and everyone belongs to God[9] and God's plans for us are good.[10] Being patient doesn't guarantee that the messiness of my life or yours will immediately subside in those moments of reflective clarity. It will, however, allow us to better endure whatever challenges come our way. God's path for our lives looks different than the ones that we have plotted ourselves. The more that we commit to living out God's values the clearer the kaleidoscope becomes of who God has called and equipped us to be.

Let us earnestly follow the simple, narrow, and patient way to the Lord.[11]

[1] Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 16:32, Matthew 18:26, 1 Corinthians 13:4, 2 Corinthians 1:6, Romans 12:12.

[2] 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6.

[3] Matthew 6:34.

[4] 2 Corinthians 12:9.

[5] Matthew 6:9.

[6] Matthew 22:34-40.

[7] It baffles me that because of hands-free technology today we assume that it must be a good idea to drive and hold a conversation at the same time on the phone, as if just because something is lawful it is responsible. Smoking is lawful, but I doubt that anyone (knowing all of the health implications) would say that it is the most responsible decision that one could make. It is an exercise in human freedom, not intelligence. I am routinely bumped into in the store by fellow shoppers who lose their way walking around seemingly holding loud conversations with no one. Then, as they run over your foot or hit you with their cart you see that iconic blue light of their Bluetooth headset blinking. It is no wonder that so many automobile accidents are caused by people attempting to multitask. I wish that we would conduct risk-reward analyses in how new technologies might negatively affect ourselves, but others inadvertently. Although speaking about a different context of the issue, Chuck Swindoll was right: "In many cases we use new things because they are novel, not because they are helpful." We ought to use technology responsibly, not allow it to perpetuate our irresponsibly.

[8] Psalm 46:10.

[9] Psalm 24:1.

[10] Jeremiah 29:11.

[11] Matthew 7:14, Revelation 1:9, Revelation 14:12.