Can anything good come from impatience? I imagine someone saying, “yes, when you are impatient with mediocrity.” Even if that is true, does not patience still needs to saturate our words and actions since we all know that patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22)?
As I reflected this morning about my own habitual cultivation of impatience, I yearn to see patient people distinguishing themselves as counter cultural beacons.
“And the people became impatient on the way” is the phrase from Numbers 21:4 that started my thinking this morning. A few of my own conclusions about impatience.
Why am I impatient? I am often impatient because I am discontented, ungrateful, proud (thinking my self and my time as more important than others), and because I am not led by the Spirit.
What are the consequences of my impatience The short answer: sin. Yes, when I am impatient, I sin; I sin against others; I cause others to sin (when they get impatient with my own impatient–you know how that goes).
How can I avoid impatience? Go slow (driving, walking, eating, talking). Practice simplicity (see Richard Foster for more on this). Be alert (to the Spirit’s leading, to what is happening around me and within me). Consider others (as more important than myself from Philippians 2).
And finally, how wonderful to mull over, What happens when I am patience? Four words come to mind. Joy. Contentment. Compassion. Humility.
Lord, I do not know if I can pray for patience but I do long that others would see me to be a truly patient man.
Your thoughts on impatience are welcome.
A better title to this post may be, “learning to live in the desert” since I have no way of knowing if this road leads out of the desert. I would like to think so but past experience and the history of spirituality offer no promises.
I doubt the value of analyzing why I am currently in the desert but I offer the following: Completion of my dissertation project (Oct 2010) and subsequent submission of my completed dissertation (end of March 2011). Two week trip to Israel. Sinful choices. Insufficient exercise. Lack of sabbath keeping. Social isolation. Abandonment (neglect may be the better word but abandonment is not far off) of spiritual disciplines.
Symptoms of desert living: depression, fatigue, lack of motivation, loss of joy, not writing in my blog, withdrawal from other people. Eerily similar to symptoms of my burnout back in 2005.
Should others be looking for a way out of the desert or a way to live within the desert, here are a few glimpses of light I have seen in the last few days. A bit early I know to be writing about this but I have to start somewhere.
Radical change of morning habit. Today was the third day in which, after making my coffee, I sat down in my chair to read RATHER than sitting down at my desk, scanning through emails and briefly checking updates on the web about news, sports and the financial markets. Amazing how I have been able to find time to read a spiritual book and my Bible which helps a LOT! Foundational I know and most of you don’t make such a simple error of priority. So far, so good–now day 4
Plea for mercy. Psalm for last week–Psalm 51. As I began reading, the first line jumped off the page for me. Mercy, I desperately need mercy–so that my transgressions, iniquities, and sins may be blotted out, and washed away. I want to intentionally focus on the prayer, “Lord have mercy” daily–actually on a moment by moment basis. Plain and simple, I need mercy and I have forgotten that.
As I re-read Psalm 51 today, I see that I also need truth (6), wisdom (6), a willing spirit (12), and a broken and contrite heart (17). Seems like a plea for mercy is not worth too much if I am not going to be honest. Accountability. Confession to God and others. Then, Forgiveness. Joy. Finally, I may get to teach others (13).
A few other words coming out of Psalm 84 (Psalm for this week) offer promise
Longing and Desire
Finding my way Home
Remember: No good thing does he withhold
Trust–keep holding on
After hearing a sermon about money this money, I decided to do a re-post from 2007.
I once made the mistake of calling friends frugal when they intentionally reducing the amount of food they served our group in order to save money. I think our friends did not understand the cultural value of celebration around a meal and how generosity would have communicated so much love.
Our friends were insulted and thought I was calling them stingy. Thanks to my wife, we managed to work it out. And, perhaps, providing them with a gift of a simple ride to the airport helped as well.
Mark Buchanan’s eloquent words in The Rest of God express my heart, “Generous people generate things.” He continues on pages 83-84:
And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful.They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.
Not so the stingy. Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. . . Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. . . . Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.
This all relates to Sabbath-keeping. Generous people have more time. That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away–who treat time as gift and not possession–have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. . . .
I don’t think my friends were stingy when I called them frugal. It was clearly a cultural misunderstanding. But, I guess in the matter we were discussing, I don’t think they were being generous either. My daughter, a server at a local restaurant, once picked up the bill for three friends who came in to eat a few weeks ago. She paid the full amount and received no discount or complimentary meal for them. She felt like being generous. Why? Well, according to my friend, she said that she had learned it from her dad. Wow, what a compliment! By the way, she did get the biggest tip of her young career from the friends!
Buchanan says, “The taproot of generosity is spiritual”, and cites the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5. He makes the following suggestion:
Give yourself first to God. Stop, now, and give yourself–your breath, your health or sickness, your thoughts, your intents, all of who you are–to him. And your time, that too. Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God’s sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God to know the difference). Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” Proverbs says, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it.
Give yourself first to God.
Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own–indeed that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is a such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself–your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness?
In God’s economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some.
Try this for a week, giving of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with time.
See if your world isn’t larger by this time next week.
May I practice generosity this week! I need to begin by letting go of . . . and giving . . .
“Pure joy is found in a life of growth, not in a life of ease,” writes Douglas D. Webster in Finding Spiritual Direction. Tough words to live by in a world that values comfort above else.
Webster uses a study of the book of James to provide a basis for the essential practices of anyone wanting to provide spiritual direction to others who seek to grow in maturity. He sees spiritual directors as “physicians of the soul” (14), as “parents” (16) and as “farmers who love the land and understand their work.” 171
Webster also talks about prayer, “Prayer sustains the resistance of the soul against an undertow of evil . . . Prayer does not tidy up life and arrange it in labeled folders. It focuses and intensifies life. Prayer orients our thinking, directs our actions and prepares us for God’s work.” 40
So, here is the question: When given an option, do you choose a life of growth or a life of ease? If you choose a life of growth, you should also understand that growth usually requires that we move through resistance as we encounter suffering and hardship. At the end of growth lies joy as Webster says above.
NOTE: Following is an update on a previous post.
Instead of being impatient with your progress, perhaps it is better to be grateful that you are still moving forward. From Teillhard de Chardin:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are, quite naturally,
Impatient in everything to reach the end without delay…
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
something new. And yet, i is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability…
and that it may take a very long time
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually;
Let them grow, let them shape themselves,
without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own goodwill)
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming
within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of your
believing that his hand is leading you, and of your
accepting the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and
According to Susan Muto, spiritual directors should be wise, learned and experienced:
“They are wise in the sense that they are prudent, saying the right thing at the right time. They can discern what is important and eternal and what is temporary and does not matter. A good spiritual director has learned the art of reading the soul They are considered to be learned not because of their academic achievements but because learned from the school of life and they have absorbed the truth of the Scriptures. They have experienced what it means to seek direction for one’s soul and themselves have been directed.” (Muto class lecture)
The qualifications needed to be a good director are qualities that cannot be gained by taking a course on SD or by reading books on the subject. These qualities are formed out of an experience in life over time and under submission to the Spirit of God. It is the “depth of intimacy with God that is more important than knowledge of the subject” (Dynamics 364)
Directees must be able to trust the Director with their soul and know that confidences will be kept. Muto advises that a Director not be a person with authority over the directee (class lecture). The directee should feel the acceptance of the Director, even if all of his or her views are not shared. Directors should be good listeners, not only to the words of the directee but also to the promptings of the Spirit as they prayerfully consider a response to the directee. There should be a genuine respect for how God is at work in life of the directee. A gentleness is required when matters of the spirit are shared and yet there must also be a willingness to be firm in offering up the needed direction (see 1 Cor. 4:21). Directors must be able to speak the truth but in love (Eph 4:32). Paul describes his gentleness among the Thessalonians “like a mother caring for her children” (1 Thes. 2:6). Even though there may be an element of spiritual parenting in SD, directees should be reassured that it is God alone as their heavenly Father who has all the resources that they need.
To be a spiritual director, a person should have some affirmation from their church leaders that they are gifted in this way.
When we go beyond the Scriptures to hear God, we face significant dangers.
“Supernatural knowledge that reaches the intellect by the exterior bodily senses” must not be relied upon says St. John of the Cross. Why says John? Because we can be easily deceived by counterfeits from the devil.
“Individuals who esteem these apprehensions are in serious error and extreme danger of being deceived.” (AMC 2:11:3) He says false visions and communications from the devil “cause in the spirit agitation, or dryness, or vanity, or presumption.”
On the other hand, communications from God, “penetrate the soul, move the will to love, and leave their effect within. As Muto says, God’s self-communications …penetrate the soul like fragrant oil softens dry, cracked skin.” (58)
In our longing for these sensory communications we are vulnerable. We must detach ourselves from desires for these special communication. As Muto says, “If good, their effects will show up anyway; if bad, they will be eliminated from the start.”(60)
A good reminder to not seek out special experiences with God or from God. I do need to spend time listening rather than always talking but when I start hearing voices, it is time to be on the alert!