Praying For Patience

Lately, I’ve had this thought that I should start a second blog so that I could complain anonymously. The thought was never more appealing than on a morning this week, when I had not yet consumed my full daily allowance of coffee, and I was being questioned about something that I was not ready to care about. I was writing the blog entry in my mind, and it seemed to have just enough sarcastic humor that people might enjoy it. But I know that would not honor God. Later in the week, I suggested an anonymous blog to my sister, as a way for her to vent about the insanity that occurs in her workplace. She didn’t think it was a God-honoring idea, either. Meanwhile, since God has convicted me to quit complaining, I have realized that most of the complaining I do is not about circumstances, it is about people. Perhaps my impatience with people is what God has really wanted me to deal with all along.

When my younger nephew was about four-years-old, he went to visit my parents. He has loved computer games since he was old enough to sit up in a desk chair. My mother entertained him by finding new games for him and downloading them. Shortly after returning from his visit, he was over for lunch. I was fixing him our favorite: macaroni and cheese. When he asked if it was ready, I told him, “Not yet.” In his little four-year-old voice he replied, “Got ‘a be patient?” After a few of these exchanges, I realized he had learned a new phrase. I later found out that he had learned it waiting for games to download on Grandma’s dial-up internet. Now, it’s one of those childhood phrases that we still quote.

I often think of that little blonde boy, sitting at my counter, as anxious for his macaroni and cheese as he was for the new games his grandma found him. Patience was a new concept that he was feeling out, trying to figure out exactly what it meant. He discovered quickly that it meant, “Got ‘a wait.” I wonder, sometimes, if the reason God has kept me waiting for a husband for twenty years is so that I would learn patience. But honestly, it’s not the waiting that gets the better of me; it’s people. And if I’m reading my Bible correctly, that is a worse problem.

And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

My anti-complaining campaign of the last month, has really made it clear to me that this is one of the areas God wants me to work on. He wants me to love others, which means extending them grace and understanding, and not publicizing (anonymously or otherwise) their mistakes or my frustrations. Unfortunately, this does not come naturally to me.  After years of struggling, I know that I need to devote myself to praying about it.

Praying for patience is one of those things Christians joke should only be undertaken with trepidation because patience is cultivated through trial. Yet, we know that our God is good and will not test us beyond what we can bear. We also know that God is working on us regardless. If we are not growing and being transformed, it is likely that we are regressing. So, praying for patience is really about accepting the work that God needs to do in our hearts, rather than trying to escape it.  When we avoid praying for patience, aren’t we simply hoping that God won’t push us out of our comfort zone? We are so afraid of the cost that we forget about the ultimate reward. We also forget that we are called to live a transformed life.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I Peter 1:14-16

It is fun to be sarcastic and to make people laugh with stories about other people. And when we are frustrated, it feels good to us to get others to share in our indignation. Yet, these are the “passions of [our] former ignorance.” Whatever pleasure we obtain is short-lived. It is easy to forget who we are in Christ, and we cling to the comforts of our humanity. I will pray for patience and pray for my heart to transformed. I will not worry myself about the cost or the discomfort.

As I was making notes for this blog, yesterday, Philippians 3 was coming alive in my mind with new meaning. I feel like quoting the whole chapter. . .Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Why do I cling to my stupid human habits when there is so much more value in knowing my Savior? I believe; I must live as one who believes. Therefore, I will make ready for an influx of people into my life who will try my patience. I will try to prepare myself to be humbled.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13b-14

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