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Spiritual Training Cycle: Submission (wk. 13/13)

Patience. If this post could also play music I’d have “I Want it Now” by Queen playing as you read this. “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”

What a humbling character trait to have, patience. I remember my mom repeatedly telling me when I was younger, “patience is a virtue.” Thirty plus years ago I was forced to have more patience compared to children and adults today. Dial up internet. A busy signal. No cell phone to keep me entertained while waiting in line at the post office, grocery store, or in the doctor’s office. I had to physically look up anything I wanted to know from a giant bookcase of encyclopedia Britannica’s or go to the library and be there for hours. Today everything is at the touch of our fingertips or the recognition of our voice. Most everything today is extremely convenient and fast. We hardly have to wait for anything – except the hard stuff. Like our prayers, or our relationship with God, or the answers to said prayers…. where are they? We want it all; and we want it now.

When it comes to your life what do you typically choose to do? Take matters into your own hands because you want it all and you want it now, or do you trust the process, take your time, pray for guidance, peace, patience, and God’s direction?

Back to the “patience is a virtue” thing – I don’t agree with that. I think patience is a skill. It’s something we must practice. It’s a skill we learn to develop over time, through both trial and error and trusting the process. Practice gives us plenty of opportunities to use and apply patience. If you’ve stepped into the gym even just a handful of times you’ve experienced what it means to be patient with your goals. It sucks sometimes. I know.

Bodybuilders don’t just go from the couch to the stage in a day. Preparing for a bodybuilding competition takes time. Weeks. Months of patience. Egg white after egg white, it’s a very mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting prep. But over time, with help from a coach, trusting their guidance, putting in the work, and staying the course, those muscles start becoming a little more defined and filled out. The body starts getting leaner. And the results from all that patience become visible.

In CrossFit I can think of two examples, ones I have struggled with before. The snatch and the muscle up. In the snatch you are lifting a barbell from the ground to overhead in one movement. In the muscle up you are hanging from a pair of rings or a pull-up bar and pulling yourself up and over the rings or bar in one movement. Both of those movements are highly skilled, and both take time and practice to perfect. If you rush either, it can get ugly fast. However, if you don’t rush it and wait until just the right time to pull or turn over, there comes a split second of time when the barbell feels almost weightless, or your body seems to just float over the bar/rings. It’s an amazing ah-ha moment when it all comes together!

There is discipline required in the waiting; just as there is in developing our spiritual skills. Like the skill of patience, or the skill of praying repeatedly to God. It’s in the waiting where we build and chisel our character, where we wrestle with our selfish desires for immediacy.

In Acts 16:16-34, we see how God used patience to chisel the character of the apostle Paul. Locked in a dungeon and destined for death, Paul began singing hymns and praying. The patience to trust God that Paul developed over the course of his life was in full play. And when his cell door broke open and the chains fell from his hands and feet, God used Paul’s patience not just to save himself, but to save others as well.

Central to the passage is the jailer. Paul and Silas could have hauled ass when they were freed. But they didn’t. Why? Because they knew the jailer’s fate was death if they fled. So, they stayed instead. The result? Salvation for the jailer and his entire family!

Their patience brought salvation. Patience saves. What does patience save us from today? It saves us from saying something we can’t take back. It saves us from acting on unhealthy impulses. It saves us from rushing to conclusions and making false assumptions.

Just like our patience saves, God’s patience saves. His patience is saving not just the jailer, but all who will patiently get to know Jesus and one day make Him their Lord and Savior. Patience is powerful!

If you’ve made it this far and you’re feeling angsty because you know you struggle with patience or wanting to know all the answers, or even just what to do next, stop. Take a deep breath. Humble yourself. Talk to God. Trust His timing. Be still and know that He is God and you are not. It’s ok to not have all the answers or all the things right now. In the waiting, use the time to work on yourself knowing good things take time, and the wait is worth it.

Questions for Reflection:

Has there been a time in your life when you struggled with being patient, you jumped the gun, and can now see how things may have turned out differently had you waited with discipline and discernment?

How can you work on ways to build the skill of patience in your life when it comes to following Jesus?

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