Waiting for the last word

Let's talk about patience.

I'm terrible at it.

I'm the one sneaking bites of dinner as I spoon food from the pan into the serving bowl. I'm the one who falls asleep on long car rides because I get bored. I'm the one always counting down days until I see family or welcome house-guests or go on vacation or celebrate a holiday. I get grumpy when the coffee doesn't brew fast enough or the tea-kettle boil soon enough. I impulse-buy small things all the time, like lip balm or nail polish or a candy bar at the checkout. Amazon Prime is the best thing ever because it gets me free two-day shipping...because waiting three or five or seven days for a purchase to show up on my doorstep is absolutely untenable.

Most of my own impatience is tolerable. At worst, I feel a little frustrated.

But then there are the big things. The things that ask you to be more than patient. Things that ask you to be emotionally patient, physically patient, patient without a particular end or goal in sight. The patience of the "in-between" spaces in life:

The space between an IVF embryo transfer and a first blood test to confirm a pregnancy (or not).

The space between visits to or from family when you live far from loved ones.

The space between a suspicious spot on an MRI and an appointment with a cancer specialist...and the space between a diagnosis and first round of treatment.

The space between living somewhere new and actually feeling like you are at home.

The space spent waiting out the challenges of ministry that are bigger than what you alone have power to control.

I hear Paul's words to the Philippians bouncing around in my head, the words that I memorized as a sixth-grader in youth group:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts in minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Is this verse a comfort to me? Yes. But is it also a challenge presented to me? Yes.

Do not be anxious. Pray. Pray with thanksgiving. And the transcendent peace of God will surround you.

Rob Bell, in his book What We Talk About when we Talk About God writes, “The peace we are offered is not a peace that is free from tragedy, illness, bankruptcy, divorce, depression, or heartache. It is peace rooted in the trust that the life Jesus gives us is deeper, wider, stronger, and more enduring than whatever our current circumstances are, because all we see is not all there is and the last word about us and our struggle has not yet been spoken.”

I suppose that is the antidote to impatience, in big and small things: that what we see is not all there is, and that the last word has not yet been spoken...and part of faith is clinging to the hope that the last word will be hope and light and life and all of that beautiful stuff that sounds so pretty when you write it into a sermon...and that takes far more work to embody when your soul is feeling tired or sore or anxious.

Patient I likely will never be. But my prayer, for me and for you, is that even in impatience we might yet see the glory of God, that we might repeat, over and over again, the words of Julian of Norwich when she says, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Until we each hear the "last word" that we are waiting for, may we trust that in God's good grace, all manner of things will be well...and walk through each impatient season of our life with a bit more grace and a bit more hope.

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