Hurry, rush, speed. These are driving forces in our culture. Of course, we label them differently. We prefer to call them drivenness, efficiency, effectiveness. If someone can get a job done more quickly, we look at them in admiration. The person who is first to finish the test gets some envious stares (often without even pausing to consider their results).
Before long, like many other things our culture offers us, hurry spreads to our spiritual lives. We demand life transformation in fifteen minute increments. Church services are increasingly like drive-thrus where we go in, get what we need, and get out. In fact, the shorter the service, the easier it is to get seating in restaurants for Sunday lunch.
It spreads to our view of community too. If we do not feel connected to people at a church within a few weeks, we’re likely to move on. If we haven’t established good relationships in a small group in a few months, it’s probably not the right group for us. We look for the quick fix, the immediate change, forgetting that we serve the God of week-long festivals, not microwave dinners.
What happened to a long obedience in the same direction, as Eugene Peterson calls it? We begin to read Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruit of the Spirit and eagerly anticipate love, joy, and peace. We begin to pray that God would immediately work in us, change our hearts so that we might be loving, joyful and peaceful people now. Then we hit the fourth virtue in the list – patience. We may not even want to pray for patience; we don’t want to give God any ideas. Yet there it is, staring at us from the page.
We must aggressively pursue patience in our lives. Fortunately, there are so many opportunities to do so. Everyday we wait in lines, sit in traffic, or (maybe) wait for the traffic light to change so we can cross the street. What if, instead of becoming impatient and wanting to move on, we took these moments as sacred opportunities to pray and worship, as opportunities to practice patience?
Patience is vitally important not just because it benefits our lives (more love, joy and peace interestingly), but because it is a way in which we reflect the Father. Peter explains that:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Patience flows out of love; when we take our eyes off ourselves and look to others, we quickly find our own hurry dissolves in light of others’ needs.
Growing in patience is key to growing in Christ-likeness. The struggle, of course, is that becoming patient takes patience. Yet we worship the God who is patient with all of us, well beyond anything we would be willing to bear.
May we pursue patience more deeply not just this week, nor this next year, but the rest of our lives as we strive to be the kind of people who reflect our God’s loving patience.