The novelty of our current stay-at-home routine has worn off. Though most Americans agree that “social distancing” makes sense for curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, we all yearn to reconnect with our family, friends, and congregation members. We are tired of being cooped up in our homes, tired of business restrictions, tired of doing everything on line. We desire social touch and social interaction. We yearn to be back in our church building, singing hymns and drinking coffee with our friends. We want the pandemic OVER!
But yearning, desires and wants do not always line-up with reality. We might all wish for the pandemic to end, but the virus will not magically go away on its own. The vast majority of public health officials agree that the pandemic will ebb and flow over the coming months. Now I am NOT a scientist and I am not a public health official, but as a pastor I know that the pandemic has caused wide-spread anxiety in our community. The future has suddenly become very unclear and potentially dangerous. Many people have lost their jobs and sources of income. Others are totally isolated in their houses or apartments.
Every day I pray the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr. It starts with the familiar words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” But the prayer has so much more – see the whole prayer here. One line in particular stands out to me, “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.” This is a call for patience.
Patience is the wonderful ability to live in the present moment without feeling compelled to rush forward to something else. You see patience in fishermen who are slowly and methodically casting their line into the deep in search of the big one. Or in a scientist who is focused on researching the corona-virus in search of a treatment or vaccine. Or in a mother who is sitting with her children and teaching them the first steps in reading. They might want to rush forward to the landed fish or the completed vaccine or the skillful reader, but they know that to accomplish their goal they need to be patient in their daily tasks. They cannot jump ahead, taking shortcuts that sabotage the results.
Patience is one of the Christian virtues that we are exhorted to embrace.
Gal. 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.
Col. 1:11-12 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Patience is not a part of our present world culture. We want instant gratification. We can buy on credit what we want now. We expect instant answers, quick results, and fast turn-arounds. We want the pandemic over NOW.
Is it possible that in this Great Pause, God is teaching us to stop our frantic, driven way of life and calling us to patiently grow deeper in our love of God and each other? Is it possible that at the heart of this storm is God, patiently calling us to trust and love? God is in the NOW, in this moment, in “this sinful world” as Niebuhr states in the Serenity Prayer. Jesus promised, “Remember, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
One way that I grow in patience is through Centering Prayer, a Christian form of meditation. I sit quietly in silence each morning and evening for 20 minutes, with the sole intention of relinquishing my life, my desires, and my control to God. I have written about Centering Prayer here and here
There are four simple (yet challenging) steps to Centering Prayer.
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
This spiritual practice has strengthened and nourished my love of God while also manifesting the fruit of the Spirit such as patience in my daily life. If you want to learn more about Centering Prayer try contemplativeoutreach.org or please contact me below.
What are practices that have strengthened your patience?
Thank you for these words John. As usual you have touch and taught me while getting to the core of where I am today.
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