Saturday, April 25, 2015

The purpose of true patience

The traffic light never gave me a green arrow to make a right hand turn.
In the checkout line at the grocery store I happened to pick the slowest moving line.
The hot water for my morning shower failed to heat up.
A girl in the gym kept snatching away the machines I was using in-between sets.
The dog pooped on the floor...again.

Today just seems to be one of those days. At every turn my patience has been put to the test. It is on days such as these that a private island sounds mighty fine.

I will admit to suffering from a shortage of patience. Please tell me I'm not alone in this ailment? I want to be patient. I long to be patient. I know patience is a virtue - and a delightful virtue at that! Who doesn't love a patient, slow-to-anger person? I see the value in patience and yet I am slow to master the principle. Be it in the grocery store line or in waiting for physical healing, my patience is often in too short a supply. Sure, I stick it out in the grocery line and wait my turn to purchase my items. I've waited for years for healing that has yet to come. But the simple act of waiting doesn't equal patience. Patience isn't just sticking it out. Patience is waiting with joy.

In my experience patience is an easily misunderstood word. If you've put up with any situation at all you are deemed "patient." I believe the standard for patience is much higher than getting through the annoyances, difficulties and long lines of life. The characteristic of patience is appropriately used when it is describing a person who exhibits peace, rest and contentment in the midst of the wait, long before the light at the end of the tunnel (or checkout) is even visible.
Patience is on full display in the life of a woman battling an incurable illness while wearing a smile and sharing kind, uplifting words to friends and family.
Patience is on display in the congested traffic while a driver sits, idle behind the wheel of their car singing to their favorite tune and dancing in their seat instead of counting the minutes tick by on the clock.
Patience is seen in the teacher who lovingly encourages the one student in the class who keeps struggling to understand the basic math principles that all the other students have already mastered.
Patience can be as simple as choosing to flip through a magazine in a long check-out line instead of staring down the conveyer belt, tapping your (my) foot and checking the time every thirty-two seconds.
Patience isn't a virtue that is magically attained. It is a decision, an act of obedience. You and I can choose to be impatient or we can choose to be patient. We can choose to be filled with joy or we can choose to let annoyances and life's disturbances get the better of us.
If we are going to follow the directive given in the Bible then we will choose to be patient out of obedience to God. The scriptures make it quite clear, "be patient in tribulation." (Romans 12:12). When anything - be it physical, emotional or spiritual - comes upon us that causes us to grow weary and antsy our go-to attitude, if we are obeying Christ, is to be patience and wait it out with hope and joy.
The great promise of patience is that it produces character. We are made stronger in faith when our patience is cultivated. It is in the waiting that our foundation built on Christ is made firmer and more stable. During the wait is when our hope is increased and made manifest.
Some days patience is going to feel like a struggle but it is worth the effort to overcome the struggle. Patience is a display of love and unity with Christ that pleases God and brings Him glory. When we are patient we are more like Christ and are united with Him more intimately. There is always a purpose in the pursuit of patience. God is using the tests of patience to mold us, shape us and make us more like Christ and less like the foot-tapping, heavy-sighing impatient woman (or man) in the grocery store checkout line.

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