There are days when I feel like I am regressing, especially when it comes to patience. Patience is a virtue I have prayed to have pretty much since my first son was born. Sometimes it seems like I am moving in the right direction and other times, well, I find myself too easily irritated or frustrated. This can be with others (like kids, congregants, drivers), with inanimate objects (like my tax software, my van door that freezes shut), or with myself (on the occasions I let myself down).
Whether we are working on ourselves, on a big or communal project, or just with others who struggle to—in the timeless words of George Costanza—live in a society, we can turn to the bible for inspiration, hope and guidance.
Luke 13 tells us,6 And he [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
I take this to mean that impatience is to be expected (as if experience isn’t enough to teach us that:) and also that it has a remedy. We can take actions to improve whatever the circumstance is which is leading to the impatience, we can give ourselves timelines to work on said issue, and hopefully resolve it before cutting it down entirely.
I think this relates to faith in important ways. For instance, we might be impatient with the at times glacial pace of change in a church, or the inability a congregation has to reach people outside of it and bring them to faith, or serve them in the name of justice, or even the attendance of bible studies and prayer meetings. We might also be impatient with ourselves, we meditate and “nothing happens,” we read the bible and don’t “hear from Jesus,” we pray and pray and our prayers go unanswered, we journal and fail to find peace and/or clarity. You get my drift.
Here is the good news hidden in the Lukan text: there is one who comes to water us, yes it might take a lot of watering (some of us are pretty dense, like me when it comes to patience) so we will need some extra water and yes it might take more time than we want it to (most good things do), but there is a Divine one watering us right now.
I believe that we are lead by the Spirit to practice certain spiritual disciplines, and if we follow them (even, or especially when they “aren’t working”) we will eventually see the fruit.
Patience, patience, that is my word of the day! What’s yours?