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Patience … Haven’t I learned that already?

By April 16, 2024No Comments

It is interesting how some memories stick with you. Almost 20 years ago a youth in the church I was serving shared an axiom with me that has remained in my conscience since that day. “Don’t pray for patience. Unless you are ready for God to give you the opportunity to learn it.” She was right, of course. Waiting to see evidence of transformation is a challenge unto itself. So many of us would like to flip a switch and have the results instantaneously before us. But it doesn’t work that way.

Photo by Julie Blake Edison on UnsplashWe have several mature trees in our yard. Each spring I am captivated as I watch the branches slowly show signs of budding. Then over the next few weeks, those buds continue to develop into flowers and leaves until the barren branches of winter are replaced by the bright green of spring. The change happens more slowly than I would like. And it happens at a different time and a different rate for each tree. We know that the renewal of springtime takes time. Why would we think renewal, or transformation, in our lives and in our churches would be any different.

Many churches are looking for the “right” program, mission project, outreach ministry, or evangelism strategy. When we see something that is working for someone else, we want to try to replicate that same program or activity in our community. At first there is a lot of energy and excitement. However, as time passes, that energy can wane. Especially if the anticipated results have not become a reality. We are conditioned by society to expect immediate response and results. But transformation takes time and patience.

Recently in our Tuesday Lectio Divina group we were reading the beginning of the “Golden Calf” story from Exodus. A few of us noticed that the people became anxious when Moses hadn’t returned from the mountain. Their anticipated timeline had been lengthened without their consent, so they turn to Aaron to create a god (or gods) for them. I would like to think that I’ve learned from their mistakes, but have I? All too often I give into my conditioning and when I don’t see immediate results, I pull up my tent stakes and move to a greener pasture. I wonder how many times my lack of patience has short-circuited the efforts to grow and transform in my life.

It IS good to evaluate whether or not our efforts are moving us in the “right” direction. But it is also helpful to remind ourselves that the goal is growth and progress. Even if we are not where we might want to be, are we becoming more the people and community God is calling us to be?

God is at work in and through us, as individuals, as churches, and as a region. In some areas that growth is evident and vibrant. In others it is in the early stages of budding. Whatever stage we are in, we can rest in the confidence that God is doing wonderful and powerful things in the world and know that God longs for us to work together as we co-create God’s Beloved Community here and now. My prayer for us all is that we are actively working toward AND patiently discerning our part in being a movement for wholeness in this fragmented world.