Saturday, May 09, 2009

Patience Required

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, I think the one that I struggle the most to cultivate is patience. Others who observe me might not think this so, given that I can be perceived as quiet and easy-going. But talk to my wife and she will relate a different story! People who live with you inevitably know you better than people who are only—sometimes at best—acquainted with you.

My lack of patience sometimes comes out as frustration with the people around me, particularly my own family. Experiencing impatience usually feels like having a lack of control over what’s going on around you. If, for instance, one of our two infant boys is crying after having been fed, changed, burped, and held, and there seems to be no discernible reason for the crying, I can find myself (sometimes but not always) feeling impatient and frustrated at the sound.

Circumstances, too, can make me lose patience. A simple example is when I find myself waiting longer than I like. Just yesterday my family and I had to go into town for errands and at one stage my wife and daughter went to do one or two of them, leaving me and our sleeping twins in the car. That was fine, since whatever they were doing wasn’t going to take longer than 20 minutes or so. Or so I thought. After just over an hour, they returned. As it happened it didn’t bother me so much this time but this could have been one of those occasions. Turns out that this time I ended up dozing off listening to music! Of course, had either one or both of the boys woke up crying to be fed that would have been a different story!

The funny thing about patience is that it’s easy to have when it’s not actually being tested. I suppose the same could be said of all the fruit of the Spirit. Learning that I could be so impatient was not pleasant. Discovering that I can be this way brought me face to face with a less than attractive part of myself, and, in fact, whenever I become impatient and catch myself, I realize how ugly I can be.

The only good news about realizing your own character flaws is that it reminds you of how much you need God to reform you. God is ever-patient with me, to an extent and depth that I will never understand. Yet I can snap in a moment, either because I am over-tired or because something rubs me the wrong way. Over the last several years, thankfully, God has been helping me with this. The seeds of patience are perhaps beginning to bud and sprout! I look forward to when the fruit comes forth in full bloom!

In the end of the fruit of the Spirit is about character. It is about growing to resemble the person of Christ. It is about the work of God in us when we place our faith and trust in him. It is about recognizing that ultimately we cannot so easily reform ourselves with our own strength, but that to become who God intends us to be is something only possible with his power.

Such change, though, doesn’t happen overnight in the life of a Christian. A garden doesn’t produce vegetables in an instant and neither does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in us the instant we convert and believe in Jesus. Those who count Jesus as Lord are all works in progress. In that sense, waiting for God to grow his fruit in us is itself an act of faith—and faith always involves in one way or another a waiting. Faith requires patience, it turns out!

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