Saturday, July 28, 2018

A tale of the fisherwoman

It seems a little 'counter' to patience to be passionate, doesn't it? When we think of patience, we probably think about the one who simply stands by waiting to see what will unfold, not losing hope, but being very, very calm, cool, and collected. I imagine being passionate as being a little more animated and less 'calm' - there is action involved in passion, so it doesn't always make me think of patience. Most of the time, we don't really equate waiting and passion as belonging together, but let me be a little bit revealing here - passion and patience make all the waiting worthwhile! I love to fish and let me just tell you that you cannot be any good at this without passion and patience! You must sit still for long times, often rethinking what you are using to attract those fish to your hook, and then know just the right time to snag that catch when they are nibbling on your bait. It is a skill learned in the waiting! Much of what we learn in life is learned in the waiting - but never forget that passion is part of waiting.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

To be very truthful here, the very first definition of patience in my dictionary has nothing to do with waiting. In fact, it has to do with bearing up under annoyance, persecution, misfortune, pain - all without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or emotional outburst! Hmmm...well, when I think about it, catching that fish means I occasionally get a little annoyed when they repeatedly steal my worms, feeling a little like they are laughing at me when they scurry away from my contented by their latest feast! While I try to remain calm, there are just times when I get a little 'outburst' of disgust with those clever ones that avoid the hook repeatedly! It is the next definition of patience that most of us associate the 'feeling' or 'action' of patience with - that of a willingness to suppress our endless restlessness when there is a delay in our gratification. If we go so far as to examine the very first "synonym" of patience, we will find the word "stability" as a descriptor of patience! Stability? Yup, because in the waiting, we are to never veer from our foundation of trust and hope.

Our patience (stability, lack of restlessness, diligence) needs to be passionate! What is being described is an intensity that surpasses the normal patience we exhibit in daily dealings. When the need arises for our persistence, we are intent on persisting. Fervent, enthusiastic, consistent submission to the alert discipline, spiritual understanding, and good character that God is building in our lives. Things in life will come our way that will require us to make the right amount of emotional investment - neither too much, nor too little. This describes the type of life that is in balance - emotionally, spiritually, and physically. There is an intensity, but it is not marked with restlessness or overtures of impatience. We have observed people going through things that we could label as "intense" in their lives, each one of them taking hold of that "intensity" in a different way. Some dig in deeper, almost looking for cover in whatever they find might distract them away from that severe intensity, if even for just a few moments. I like to use humor to release a little bit of that tension that mounts in those times - if even for just a few minutes - as it releases many 'good hormones' that help me make it through the tough moments.  Others might find themselves turning tail and running, attempting to escape the intensity because it is too unpleasant, requires too much investment, or presents uncomfortable options for them.

The kind of response to intensity that does not move quickly into that immediate complaint about the circumstance, does not easily become irritated with the amount of investment being required (emotionally, physically, spiritually) - this is what God is looking for in each of us. In fact, there is to be a response from within us that shows that the desire for immediate gratification is no longer the motivating influence in our lives. For many of us, we have a long way to go on this one. Honest evaluation of our lives would confirm that we struggle with submission when the issues are intense, the pressures are mounting and the promise of any kind of gratification is waning! How do we get to this point of passionate patience? Remembering what our passage has already revealed to us, it is through allowing the Holy Spirit to work into the very fibers of our being the stability that needs to be there. Today will present us with one or more opportunities to choose wisely - when we do (we call that obedience), a new fiber is woven into us. The more we make those good choices, the more the fibers of obedience are interwoven, until we have a strong cord that bears up under pressure. It is not instantaneous! In fact, it takes time. Add to that 'patience' and you get the picture!

God is after a work of art, not just a quickly sketched design in each of us. His goal is that we will allow the moments of 'required waiting' to become a thing we are comfortable with - allowing him to create within us a solid and secure foundation.  At first, we feel like it is a clumsy, slow, and arduous process to learn to wait, much less have any passion in it. After some time, the passion and the waiting becomes easier - in other words, we don't resist the work of the Holy Spirit in directing our choices any longer. We enjoy the touch of the Holy Spirit's hand, gently directing us, keeping us steady, allowing just enough tension in our lives to "weave together" that which produces the beauty of his holiness within. Passionate patience - it is the work of the truly "Skilled Artisan" in our lives. Just sayin!