As I reread Robert Roberts’ The Strength of a Christian, I notice my own impatience rising to the surface. I want to glean some quick insight into the practice of patience, so that I can immediately apply it to my life. I want patience NOW. Roberts provides instruction on the practice of patience (that I will post tomorrow, be patient), but first Roberts makes a wise observation on the necessity of patience for becoming a whole person.
Patience is also a condition for the integration of the person. Like other strengths, patience gives our lives continuity and autonomy, enabling us to live not by impulse, or at the beck and call of environmental stimulus, but by some design. The Christian design is of course the love of God and neighbor. It is one thing to have noble sentiments, such as compassion and concern for one’s neighbor and gratitude to God, but quite another to be in the appropriate sense the author of these, the kind of person who through “interior strength” has etched this design upon life. Only someone self-present in the way a patient person is can practice Christian life as a spirit does. (p. 56)
When I was in my twenties, I remember reading a Christian article about how God is more interested in growing mighty oak trees than in zucchini. Zucchini are rather amazing plants in that they grow from seed to fruit rapidly. Yet they will not survive a hard frost. Oaks take considerable more time. Yet it is the oak that survives the winter and summer storms and bears witness to God’s glory, year after year, by being the oak it was created to be. In the same way, as Christian, we are called to serve God faithfully, becoming fully what God created us to be. Growth in Godly character is often seasonal, with long stretches where one wonders if God has forgotten you. This is where the integrity of patience comes to bear, trusting God is at work, even in the times of waiting and hoping. I continue to pray and seek patience as God works on my character of becoming a strong oak (see Psalm 1).
Who has been a model of patience for you?