Tag Archives: patience

Integrity of Patience

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)

The strength of an oak tree

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?

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The Happiness of Patience

Happiness needs Patience

Robert C. Roberts gives me food for thought in his chapter on patience in The Strength of a Christian.  I had never really connected happiness and patience before.

Patience is a condition for happiness.  Some vices are enjoyable, or at least seem so at the moment you practice them.  For example, most people get a delicious pleasure out of invidious gossip.  But other vices are just thoroughly unpleasant.  Envy, for example, is evil through and through.  Someone would have to crazy to go looking for an opportunity to be envious.

Impatience is an unpleasant vice.  It is a state of more or less intense frustration: you want to be somewhere other, or doing something other or accomplishing something other, or in the company of someone other, than you are.  Some people’s impatience is limited to certain moment, but other people are beset with impatience about large segments and pervasive situations of their life: for example the mother of small children who just can’t wait until they grow up enough to go to school and get out of her hair. These are the ones whose impatience has made them unhappy people, rather than just people with unhappy moments.

By contrast, people who can dwell gladly in the present moment despite some desire, or what would normally be a reason to desire, to depart from it–are not frustrated.  Because they exercise patience, this present moment of life is something in which to rejoice and be glad.  The impulses to flee are under control, and they experience peace and self-acceptance.

This week at lunch my host said he had a choice when he got up that morning: whether to choose to have a great day or not.  I think part of that choice is to decide to be patient, to live in this day, hour, moment with these people and circumstances.  God will be in this day; will I be attentive, patient to discover and rejoice in his presence?

How has patience and happiness overlapped for you?

The Stength of Patience

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.

Patience leads to strength and strength to patience

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?

Patience and beyond

Pastor John when he could run

 I must confess that I have had trouble keeping up with my running buddies due to my own inactivity.  Over the past several months I have tried a few tentative runs, actually jogs, to see if my hip was better. Each time, the same pain came back and I would stop running and walk. I’ve stretched, I’ve iced, I’ve strengthen, I’ve Ibuprofen, I’ve massaged.  I have prayed.  I have had five appointments with a physical therapist to manipulate the SI joint.  Now I am scheduling an appointment with my doctor to see what options I have.  During this inactivity, several people have told me, “You must be patient.”

I have been hearing that patient word a lot.   As a new pastor in a congregation friends tell me tobe patient as I learn new names, faces, family connections and ministry choices.  At home I am learning to be patient with my siblings as we try to remodel and sell my mother’s home in Washington state.   I know that patience is a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and it is good virtue to possess.  I just wish that I could be more patient in learning to be patient.   

In my journal, as I wrote about these frustrations, I came to the realization that in the grand scheme of things, a season or two without running is not the end of the world.  I have had other such experiences of inactivity from running injuries and eventually recovered.   In fact, this hiatus may just open me to some new activity of the Holy Spirit.  Like learning to walk in the Spirit of God.  Or cross-country skiing or snow showing or cycling or yoga.

And thanks for your patient listening and prayers for my recovery.

What has been an important lesson in patience for you?

Newcomer or Old-Timer?

Snow shoes and Sauna mix well

This morning I visited my old running group for their annual mid-winter sauna run and brunch at a runner’s home.  It was my first time back since coming to Resurrection.  After our brief Bible study, most went for a six-mile run, while my friend Tim and I tried some snowshoe jogging on a nearby lake.  Gary, the host, loaned me his new shoe shows to try.  Tim and I weren’t fast, but we had a blast staying upright.   When we got back it was time for sauna, brunch and conversation. 

It was great fun seeing old friends, swapping stories and telling some tall tales.  Many of us have run together for more than eight years, so the stories have gained some embellishment over time.  Who amazed me this morning was a newcomer named Joe.   Tim had invited him after working out together at the Y.  Joe had never run with the group, only knew Tim (who did not run this morning) and had only a vague idea what would happen.   I like to think the running club provides great hospitality, but it always takes courage to walk into an established group, especially on such a social occasion.  Joe ran the six miles, enjoyed the sauna and brunch and smiled as we told our stories.  He plans to be back.

 As a new pastor in a young congregation, I sort of feel like Joe each Sunday morning.  I seek to fully participate, to learn names, and to listen to the stories.  People at Resurrection Lutheran Church have warmly welcomed me, that’s for sure.   I am excited to be with them.   Yet I am still the newcomer, without the history, the mileage that comes with time.  I want to race ahead, but right now it’s learning to be patient and consistently present.    

 I sort of wonder how the disciples felt after their first days with Jesus.  They knew exciting days were ahead, but each day held something of a surprise.  What was coming?   

Are you a newcomer, an old-timer, or somewhere-in-between in your faith community?  How does that affect your attitude and actions?

Getting into It – Part II

Yesterday I posted about my decision to get into winter and enjoy cross-country skiing as an alternative to my running.  Yesterday afternoon I drove to a nearby county park, Cottage Grove Ravine Park, anticipating excellent snow and groomed trails.  I was a bit rushed because the sun was low in the sky and I was unfamiliar with the park.   I missed the entrance for the parking lot, so I started a quick turn around.  In my haste I slid off the road and into a snow bank.  

At first I thought I could simply drive out.   The spin of the front tires told me otherwise.  I tried to clear the snow from the front of the car.   It was too compacted and I had no shovel.   Sheepishly I asked a couple of skiers to assist me.   Though we pushed and pulled, the car was stuck.  Finally I had to admit I was truly trapped in the snow and called AAA for assistance. 

A car like mine waiting for help

While I was calling AAA on my cell phone, a second call came through.   I soon discovered I had a pastoral emergency with one of my parishioners!    With some embarrassment, I called the family and explained my predicament.   I would come as soon as the tow truck pulled me out, which was further delayed because the truck driver got lost.

As I sat in the car, waiting for the tow truck, I ruminated about my plans.  I had wanted to “get into it” by doing some skiing.   Instead I literally “got into it” with my car in the snow.  I was frustrated, but also reflective.   My haste had put me in this predicament and I could blame no one but myself.   There will be future opportunities for skiing and exploring.  I was thankful that my slide had cause no damage to car or myself.    Finally I decided once again to practice what I often preach to others,  patience and thanksgiving.    I could “get into it” by seeing the mercy of God in my own foolishness.

Dream Bridge Ahead

Dreams and Bridges

I better be careful what I ask for.  Yesterday during our staff meeting we read Matthew 1:18-25, where Joseph is instructed by an angel in a dream to take the pregnant Mary as his wife.   I commented that in our culture, dreams are rarely considered as means by which God speaks to us.  So what did I experience last night?  I awaken from a vivid dream, wondering what it means. 

After last night’s stewardship meeting in which we discussed the progress of our “Crossing the Bridge” emphasis, I dreamed that I was crossing a large bridge in my car.  It resembled the large interstate bridge that cross the Mississippi River near Rock Island, IL.   I crossed it often in recent years, taking my daughter to college in Galesburg, IL.   In my dream as I crossed the bridge, it dipped below the water line, but strong glass barriers kept the water off the road way.  A bear and a wolf were crossing the bridge as well.  As I neared the far west side of the bridge, I noticed that vehicles were turning around and heading back.  I slowed as I neared the end.

A young teenager signaled for me to stop.  He told me that the road ahead was blocked and that I would need to wait or turn back.  I decided to wait.  I got out of my car, which then became my bicycle.  I leaned it against the wall and went to explore on foot.  As I walked up the road straight ahead, I could see it was blocked by a grand piano, lying on its side.  I looked for other routes.  There was a small path to the left, but it seemed to small for my car (or bike?).  However, there was also a major road to the right and that seemed to be the way to go, but a crowd blocking the exit from the bridge had not yet moved out of the way.

Needless to say, I have been playing/wrestling with this dream all morning.  Various interpretations leap into my mind.  Certainly part of it is my desire to push ahead quickly with the mission and ministry of Resurrection.  I don’t want anything to block our way!  Yet I discern the need to be patient, to explore the road ahead.  The obvious way may be blocked for the moment, but a new way will be found.  Psalm 16:11 You show me the path of life.

Has a dream ever played a role in your journey with God? 

Or do you have a different interpretation of my dream?