One book that I reread is Robert C. Roberts, The Strength of a Christian. In chapter three he gives an excellent definition and helpful wisdom on the virtue of patience. He starts by quoting Paul’s famous chapter on love: Love is patient. Patience gives strength to love so that we can truly love God, our neighbor and ourselves.
Patience is the ability to dwell gladly in the present moment when we have some desire . . . to depart from it. It takes patience to be a good duck hunter or scholar or even a good thief. Waiting for the ducks to come near the blind may get boring, just as reading some theologians may be. Patience is not only a Christian virtue but a virtue in the book of anybody who understands human life.
Our life is full of beckonings from the future: The future says, “Come away from where you are; you are not moving fast enough, not accomplishing enough, not getting what you set out to get. And is it not a bit boring where you are, and unpleasant and annoying in other ways? Come away, come away.” And so a craftsman rushes his job, or the scholar lays aside the volume of Moltmann’s theology. Some people are so deficient in patience that they flit from task to task or from entertainment to entertainment, never doing anything well or enjoying anything deeply.
Patience is a form of self-mastery that enables us to dwell in the present moment, to stay at the present task, to narrow our focus of vision so that our mind is not sundered by every passing impulse to quit the present and fly away.
Roberts goes on to examine how we can achieve such self-mastery in our Christian lives. I confess that I am struggling with patience as I work my physical therapy exercises. I hope to run again and perhaps train for a marathon. But all I can do is repeat over and over and over and over the exercises that my PT has given me. I also need patience as I pastor in a new congregation, learning God’s story and culture within this great congregation. So I am rereading and reflecting on Robert’s book. I will share more in the coming week.
How and when have you learned patience and what role did God play in the learning?