Monday, July 9, 2007

Patience Again

’ve been pondering patience this past week, and how alien it seems to our spirits and hearts. We can speak much about our instant gratification culture, and much of that is true, but a lack of patience infects nearly everything we do at home, work and church.

My vicarage supervisor would say that most issues that arose in a congregation would “work themselves out.” Wisdom comes in knowing which ones will, and which situations need some gentle nudges. Less pious people sometimes observe that some problems work themselves out through the graveyard…or maybe that shows a spiritual maturity?

Exhibiting patience is difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult virtues to practice. It requires denying your emotions: your anger (however righteous it may be); your pride and arrogance; passion for truth and justice. It requires denying them and mastering them, for one cannot respond or wait in patience when all worked up about something. It requires faith to trust that our merciful and loving God is truly Lord of all, and holds all things in His hand. It means giving up our feeling and desire for control.

But secular culture derides patience. It appears too much like inaction, like indecisiveness, lazy, and so it prizes the opposite. If one decides to actively cultivate patience, his peers will not approve.

And as the old observation goes, “If you pray for patience, God will give you very trying circumstances.” We say it tongue-in-cheek, but this observation is true–and serious. The virtues must be practiced and lived. One cannot be patient without adversity to withstand and pressure to act quickly. We cannot expect to grow in virtue without the opportunity to practice it, just as we cannot grow in any gift without using it. But perhaps it would be wise to first pray for God’s help in responding patiently to the circumstances we face right now.