Patience. A word so often tainted by its lofty requirements. In fact, how often have you heard the warning “be careful what you pray for” directly related to patience? Honestly, who really wants to be more patient?
Patience is difficult. It’s under-admired, under-desired, and overall just under-rated. Job is the guy most often associated with patience, the one no one wants to be in the Bible. When I think of the most patient people in my life, they’re generally the ones that have been through the most difficult circumstances. Who desires difficulty? Not me! Though I think there’s an untapped wisdom in desiring patience that I don’t yet fully understand, there’s another aspect of patience that has recently demanded my attention.
Yes, we all know God is patient. He’d have to be to deal with us, right? But that’s not something often considered in great length. When I spend time in adoration, I often mediate on His love, His grace, His mercy, His holiness, His omnipotence, His self-sufficiency, His goodness, and even His justice… but patience rarely makes the list. From a human understanding, adoring God’s patience requires me to acknowledge that I’m the reason for His long-suffering as He bears with me in my ongoing sin-struggle. Though mercy, grace, and many others prompt the same self-reflection, it seems the Church has been anesthetized to the cost required of these great gifts and the sickening role we play in needing them. As one that is also too often deadened to the role I play and the sacrifice He made, acknowledging His patience stirred some needed self-reflection.
This journey started as I read a story of her mother’s patience with her children. (It is not surprising that moms would start this time of reflection as they so beautifully personify patience.) As I read this story of a mother patiently loving her child through deep pain and beastly behavior, it was hard not to think about the Lord’s patience with me, the most beastly of children in my behavior toward Him. The child kicked, screamed, and rejected the mother’s love, but the mother patiently waited with an understanding, unshakable love. She did not let go of her child, even when the child tried to let go of her. God, too, patiently waits for us to return to Him. He is constant, while we are fickle and disloyal. He is present, while we are pushing away. He looks at us with compassion, while we too often look at Him with hate, anger, and rejection.
Of course, I would not recommend telling God off or throwing an adult-sized tantrum (though I have no doubt He’s big enough to handle it), but I think it’s a game-changer to consider His love in light of His patience. God’s patience does not merit our sin, but it gives us a glimpse of who He is. Patience is, after all, the first word used to define love in 1 Corinthians 13. God is the epitome of this love, as displayed in His patience. It helps my simple and stubborn mind to mediate on His ongoing forgiveness, and remember how much greater He is than me. I hope it will also spur me on to forgive again and again (Matthew 18:22), and exercise a percentage of the patience He has for me with others. In a day where anything is accessible within minutes, jumping a line is worth any cost, and any delay causes merits indignant behavior, it is no wonder why God’s patience is so difficult for us to grasp. It is inexplicable that He would wait for me and choose to do so. Why I am worthy of His wait I will never know, but why He is worthy of my worship I see a little more.