Reflections: Patience as a Fruit of the Spirit
We have been reflecting on the fruit of the Spirit these past 3 weeks and today I want to share some thoughts on ‘patience’. We have two verses from two New Testaments books that I will read for you now.
“But, if we hope for what we do not see, we anticipate by perseverance."
“Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every man be swift to listen, slow to speak, slow to indignation”
The first verse links patience with hope and the second links patience with restraint. Let’s unpack these two.
Patience has to be activated during a period of uncertainty, rather like our current situation when we may have anxiety in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic as we wait for a vaccine to protect us from it. We hope and trust that this future will unfold in good time. This requires us to mobilise hope, to enact trust and to persevere in the face of uncertainty.
As we age, arguably, we develop these traits through life experience. We have seen enough setbacks, been though disappointments to know that generally things resolve over time, or, if they don’t, we adjust to them. I like this quote from Thomas Edison, the famous inventor who gave us the light bulb but only after years of unsuccessful attempts: ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000
ways that will not work’
It’s a question of perspective – we wait in anticipation; we wait in hope. Julian of Norwich captured this wonderfully in her wise statement.
‘All will be well and all manner of things will be well.’
She lived during another pandemic – The Black Plague that killed half the population of Europe and she knew about socially isolating, living in a tiny cell for much of her adult life. Yet her writing is replete with optimism and hope. For people of faith, hope is a defining characteristic because we believe in a good and loving God.
The second verse reminds us of the importance of exercising patience in communication. I was reminded of this weekly when attending groups for perpetrators of domestic violence. A key strategy for them was recognising the escalation of their anger and taking ‘time out’ to restore equilibrium and calm. It was recognising that even in moment of extreme emotion, you always retain choice in how you respond. Thus, you take responsibility for your actions and don’t blame others. We have to challenge statements like ‘I lost it, she knows my triggers’.
As many of you know, I’ve had to manage depression and anxiety much of my adult life, but it was until my 50’s that I really grasped the wise advice from a counsellor that thoughts and feelings are, by the very nature, transient and passing. These feelings of fear, of being on the edge of tears last from seconds to minutes, up to an hour and rarely more than a day. They always pass. With that
knowledge, you leave them be and sometimes don’t even notice their passing. That’s the fruit of patience.
Loving God, as we transit through this uncertain time, help us build resilience (and patience) to know that you hold us in palm of your hands and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.