Posted by: Postordinandy | May 28, 2010

Patience is a virtue, but I don’t have the time…

The quest for patience takes a frustratingly long time. We continue to look at the fruit of the spirit, as recorded in Galatians 5.

In order to help us grasp what patience might be, we first spent some time thinking about what it isn’t. Patience isn’t demanding an instant fix, wanting to be first, needing it now… but instead is the ability to step out of this, to see the bigger picture, to wait. This waiting is not necessarily a passive experience, but is an expectation that acknowledges the proper place of time and process.

We reflected on our experiences of patience, confessing to each other that we are not always the best practitioners in this area. It can be hard to be patient, surrounded as we are by promises of the Now! and Instant! Our culture is one dominated by the idea of fast and trouble-free: fast-food – I had to wait 5 whole minutes for that burger!; MOT while-you-wait; on-line shopping so we don’t have to queue at the checkout; fast-track check-in at the airport; instant-soup and microwave ready-meals…

It occurred to us that patience can be quite an active thing in some circumstances. Jesus, teaching about prayer, tells a story of a widow seeking justice who badgers away at a judge until action is taken. She is patient though, determined as she is that if she persists in her actions she will get a result, she does not give in to either self-pity or self-righteousness. See Luke 18:1-8 for the parable of the persistent widow.

There is an overlap here with the fruit of peace . Being still – knowing that it will happen in the end, allowing ourselves to be content with the situation we find ourselves in: these are not things our culture is naturally good at, is used to, or desires.

Often, we are at our most impatient when we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. We get frustrated by our apparent helplessness – even if it is something as simple as being stuck in traffic. Patience in the Spirit is something grown in the context of a freedom, (from being driven, in control, needing to have access to everything you desire), allowing us instead to relax ‘into the moment’. To have this kind of patience is to be free to operate as a be’er, rather than a do’er. It is the gentle voice of the spirit asking us: On who’s terms do you live here anyway?

An illustration of this is the recent Ash Cloud Chaos which resulted from the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. There seemed to be broadly three kinds of reaction to being trapped overseas as a result:

– some expressed frustration about not being able to do something, and ended stressed and tired as a result.

– some were able to take control, and spent whatever time & money they could find to getting back home another way.

– others were able to enjoy the break from the normal routine.

Of course, not everyone was able to rationally choose the third option above, but those who could were able to benefit from the situation (to an extent). Two of our members told of the time that they found themselves delayed in Paris for several hours while travelling through France to another destination. The airline were apologetic, and paid for a hotel for them to stay in while alternate arrangements were made. The sadness was that, instead of taking the time to embrace the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world, our friends booked themselves into the hotel room and stayed in there “in spite” (in their own words) and anger at the situation. Oh, if they could have that time again how differently they would behave!

One thing that should be noted here is the reality that patience is to a degree a learned behaviour. If you are in any doubt about this look at how a 5 year old reacts when you tell her that she’ll have to wait ten minutes before she can have that ice-cream. Parents have to work hard to help their offspring to develop this trait.

On the other hand, some forms of patience are more natural – and hear we can learn from observing children again. Children can be very patient when they want to be – watch the same child walking home from school: stopping to look at every leaf, stick and piece of interesting crisp packet they see; wanting to walk on every wall, and to tell the story of their day in sometime excruciating detail.

So, what does all this actually look like in practice?

As Christians, we are called to the discipline of practising contentment – demonstrating it as a witness to others. This, like so many spiritual disciplines, is no walk in the park: we can’t beat our nature, and therefore have to work with it and at it. We have to consciously and intentionally get used to making something positive out of difficult circumstances, and embracing the gap between the desire for and the delivery of our desires.

For us as a church this continues to be a ‘live’ issue. We left our church building 2½ years ago, looking to sell it. It remains unsold. The challenge for us is to try and embrace the ‘fallow time’ between leaving the church building and ‘something else with a building possibly involved’ happening as a gift, rather than spending our time and energy being frustrated by the apparent lack of progress and process.

Caedmon’s Call: Walk With Me

Psalm 23:1-2 (TNIV)

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

he leads me beside quiet waters



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz M, Andy Campbell. Andy Campbell said: Patience is a virtue, but I don't have the time…: […]

  2. […] offering a solution when what is required is a kindly listening ear; using discernment and godly patience to wait for the moment to act or speak, rather than trying to tell people something that is true […]

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