Lately, I keep running across the word "patience."
Does this ever happen to you? A word or an idea seems to be everywhere - in your reading, in your conversations, in your interactions with other people.
On November 4-5, I helped to lead our annual women's retreat at Geneva Center. This retreat was centered on what trees can teach us about our spiritual lives. One of the points we talked about was that, just as a seedling takes time to grow into a tree, so too our spiritual growth requires time.
And time - waiting - requires patience.
But we are an impatient people. Waiting is tedious.
Recently, I was driving on a county road where the speed limit is 40. The person in the car in front of me was going a steady 25 miles per hour. I must have driven behind that car for all of 10 minutes. It was excruciating.
I've been doing yoga. And while I love the way it makes me feel - my joints loosening, my body opening up - I'm frustrated that I can't mirror the instructor's positions. I have to hold onto a chair to balance on one foot in the Tree position. I can't get my head all the way down onto my legs in the Seated Forward Bend. I've been practicing for three whole months. What's the holdup?
As I write, I'm sitting in our cottage in southern Indiana, surrounded by trees, by beauty and by silence. But this morning our Internet is slow. Loading a page must be taking at least 3 or 4 minutes. Unacceptable!
More eloquent writers than I have lamented how constantly busy we are, how preoccupied with time - or, more accurately, with speed - we've become as a culture. The Apostle Paul would say that we are too attached to the things of the world, that we allow our lives to be governed by human expectations, rather than God's.
Growth takes time, whether it's the growth of a tree, or a person, or a spirit. Growth is a process that we can't just skip. We can't plant an acorn and then feel frustrated when an oak tree doesn't appear next season. We can't devote just one whole hour to God on Sunday morning and then wonder why we aren't feeling closer to Jesus every other day of the week. We can't pray for discernment one day and expect to have a clear direction the next.
We are impatient with others for not meeting our expectations.
We're impatient with ourselves for not being perfect.
And we're impatient with God for not moving more quickly in response to our urgent prayers.
Yet we know from experience that God's time is seldom our time. We know that, so often, it's only in looking backwards at our lives that we recognize God's hand in our situations.
We are an impatient people, about to enter into a time of waiting: Advent.
Savor the time of waiting in expectation of the coming Messiah. It will mean more, friend, than rushing around, frantically searching for the perfect gift.
One of the most precious gifts we can give ourselves this season is patience. Quietly and calmly awaiting the coming of the Child. Generously showing grace to all of the imperfect people around us - including ourselves. Trusting that our God is present in our lives, even when we don't feel it, even when everything seems to be taking too long.
Progress, growth, real change... they all take time.
My prayer is that we will enter into these most precious days thanking God for time, for our ability to choose patience rather than impatience, thankfulness rather than frustration, confidence rather than doubt.
For He is coming. Alleluia!
Lou Ann Karabel