Patience is my word for today.
It is not my favourite word.
Years ago, when I was dating my first husband - no, it was pre-dating - I was quite interested in him at the very young age of 14. During that time, I went with our youth group where he told his story... or in some circles it would be called giving his testimony. He talked about patience that night. How he had asked God for patience, and some very difficult things had happened. And God was teaching him through that. It made an impression on me, well in fact I married him a few years later! But I also decided then and there that asking for patience was not one prayer I really wanted to pray.
I really think God has a sense of humor. Whether I prayed for it or not, I have had a lot to learn, and have found myself many times in a place of waiting; of practicing patience. Yesterday when we were reading our daily reading by Henry Nouwen, these words startled me: "The word patience comes from the
Latin verb patior which means "to suffer." Waiting patiently is
suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the
seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. "
Nouwen teaches that patience is not passive. He says, "Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or
the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to
the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for."
We are coming up to the Advent Season. It is a joyful season, but advent means to wait. To wait for a Saviour. As if the whole earth were groaning, waiting for relief from suffering. I know many can relate as we listen to the news each night of bombs falling in the Gaza strip and in Israel. I pray for my friends there. We relate when we hear of tragedies all over the world. We relate when we know loved ones in our own circles who struggle with grief or pain or difficult times.
It reminds me of a cryptic saying I heard "Life is hard, and then you die." Life can be hard. This is true. But there is also hope to hang on to, that I refuse to let go of. And even, in what seems to us the very worst, saying good-bye is saying hello. To a new life, a free life, a life with God, a life without pain. That is the ultimate hope.
But in the meantime, we live here, in what often seems the mess. There cannot be life without suffering. I see it every day in my work. And yet, there is also joy to be found. Profound joy. Joy in the moments, joy in shared smiles, in meaningful conversation, in the beauty all around us.
I was thinking of a verse I've read from time to time, and now I just read it in "The Message" a lovely paraphrase of the Bible. It says: "There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary - we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!" Isn't that lovely?
It brings up more words to live by... gratitude, expectancy... but they can be words for another day. I'm still not sure asking for patience is a favored prayer I pray readily, but patience can be practiced, and lived with, and accepted, and there is the hope of what is to come. Like the seeds of plant, buried in the dark cold earth, often dormant for months, there is the hope of spring, of life, of things to come.