Over the past year, my prayers for patience have exponentially increased. Losing a job with commensurate loss of family income, a new daughter, waiting for an answer as to where to use my gifts, a loss of community, waiting for provision and in desperate need of patience. The patience that God required this past year exceeds human ability. I do not have this level of patience, I do not have this degree of perseverance. I desperately depend on the supernatural and gracious work of God to grant patience while waiting. Re-reading from a favorite book of mine, I was reminded that patience is not shallow and it is not needed just for a moment. Patience is deep and is needed for long hauls. Henri Nouwen in his book [CAM1] Compassion says this:
“But true patience is the opposite of passive waiting in which we let things happen and allow others to make decisions. Patience means to enter actively in to the thick of life and to fully bear the suffering within and around us. Patience is the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our lives. It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears, and hands so that we really know what is happening. Patience is an extremely difficult discipline precisely because it counteracts our unreflective impulse to flee or to fight.”
“Patience requires us to go beyond the choice between fleeing and fighting. It is the third and most difficult way. It calls for discipline because it goes against the grain of our impulses. Patience involves staying with it, living it through, listening carefully to what presents itself to us here and now. In short, patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory.”
My unknown territory is parenting. When my three year old and one year old (throw in the 90 pound dog too) demand me, claw at me, or will not give me a moment to myself, I want (if left to my own devices) to run to the other room, shut them off or yell at them. I want to flee or I want to fight. Sadly, I have done both, but who is not human? It is in these moments that I am desperate. What I truly want for my children is a mom that sticks with and depends on God, not a mom that runs or yells. I want them to know that their mom is not perfect, but is incredibly dependent. I want them to see that God’s power is greater than my power and that they also can depend on God. Deep within, I want this for their spiritual lives and this requires a deeper patience.
It requires a deeper patience of me that does not come from my efforts but from my repeated, never-ending, choices to not flee, to not fight but to choose to depend. It is a discipline to choose dependence. When I do, a deeper patience comes forth. A deeper patience comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a patience that brings peace and joy, a patience that brings more intimate relationship with God and with my children.
This deeper patience goes completely contrary to our culture. We flee to addictions and we fight with damaging and sometimes destructive words. We flee internally and shut ourselves off and we fight and creative hostile and volatile environments. Patience is thought of only for those who are weak and don’t have things under control. I guess the truth is that as Christians we are weak in and of ourselves and we really don’t have things under control. So, maybe the world is right – patience is only for those that are weak and out of control. Patience requires the recognition of weakness and lack of control and the recognition that in Christ we are truly strong and trust in His control. (insert personal humbling moment).
Nouwen continues, “When Jesus speaks about patience, he describes it as a discipline by which God’s life-giving presence becomes manifest.”
God’s life-giving presence comes through the discipline of patience. Don’t we all desire God’s life-giving presence? I desire this and I want those around me to see it!
My main territory is parenting. There are many others. For some of you it is your family of origin, for others it is your workplace. For some of you it may be your marriage or a relationship. There are countless territories in which God has called us to and the unknown ones can be especially challenging. Talk to God, ask him to help you as you choose to practice dependence on him that will lead to a deeper patience and manifestations of His life-giving presence.
[CAM1]Nouwen, Henri. Compassion