Saturday, May 06, 2006

Living Beyond Yourself - Week Six - Patience

When I started this week’s study on patience, I thought maybe I would learn how to keep my cool when Alex is asking me for 95th time to go outside, PLEAAAAASE, when it’s 7:30 at night and he has just had a bath, or maybe how to avoid the onset of a twitching episode when David commandeers the laptop when we're watching TV, which, I’m sorry, IS MY BLOGGING TIME, DOESN’T HE KNOW THAT?

(And to be fair, he only “commandeers” the laptop about once every month, when he has work to do but is also trying to spend time with me, so yeah, I should just zip it with the mock indignation.)

What I was not prepared for when I started this week’s homework was to get a large lesson in hope, and forgiveness, and mercy, and endurance…the embers that spark the patience flame.

This week I learned that one of the most critical components of patience with people – and one that makes judging people nearly impossible – is mercy. In fact, according to Beth, “if we neglect the necessity of forgiveness, we fail to complete the portrait of biblical patience. Patience is the vessel through which God pours His mercy. Mercy is fueled by forgiveness.”

And at that point I was ready to put my “Little Miss Spiritual” crown on, because, well, I’m a pretty forgiving person. I forgive EVERYBODY. I forgive EVERYTHING.

Don’t I?

But hold on.

If I did forgive everybody, and if I had forgiven everything, wouldn’t I be overflowing with patience? Wouldn’t I be the most merciful person alive? Because I’m SO not.

And the more I thought about it and prayed about it, the more I realized that I'm not nearly as forgiving as I thought I was.

I guess I won't be accessorizing with that crown, after all. Because I discovered this week that it’s nearly impossible to be merciful and patient with other people when struggling with forgiveness “issues.” I have some of those. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint all of them, because I buried some of that junk so long ago that I can’t even remember where I left it. I do know, however, that there must be a deep well of bitterness and unresolved hurt that’s watering my garden of impatience, and I have to get to the bottom of it.

(Did y’all notice that I made a metaphor? I DID.)

Beth goes on to give five reasons why forgiveness is so essential, and the last of the five offers a perspective on forgiveness that I’ve never considered:

We must forgive because we are not the only ones bound by the rope of unforgiveness. If we refuse to forgive, we tie God’s mighty hands from ‘working all things together for good.’ He will not bring personal good to you from your pain if you do not release Him through your forgiveness…. Christ has a purpose in the pain you’ve suffered or He never would have allowed it. Until you surrender to His purpose in the specific matter at hand, He cannot work it for your good. Do you know what that means? It all happened in vain – for absolutely nothing.” [emphasis mine]

Oh. Well. My goodness. I mean, I may be a little bitter, but I don’t want to be stupid. I don’t want any aspect of my life to be in vain. And I certainly don't want to "tie God's mighty hands."

So what I realized, as I was going through my homework, is that other people aren’t the source of my patience problem. I am. I’m the big ole stinkin’ problem.

Sometimes I fail to realize that people who “challenge” my patience are in my life because God put them there, because they are just what this prideful girl needs. They are many times the iron that I so desperately need to sharpen my own. And Beth points out three reasons why certain people seem to have a knack for testing our patience:

- They bring out the worst in us (which isn't necessarily a bad thing - we need "the worst" to come out so that there's more room for the Holy Spirit to fill us up).
- They keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves.
- They keep our pretenses from working.

In other words, they disarm the strongholds of our pride...they tear down the parts of us that think we're "above" feeling a certain way, responding a certain way, or even dealing with certain issues. And now that I've started to take a hard look at relationships that "test" me through the lens of those three reasons, I see the truth of Beth's statements EVERYWHERE.


I wish I could wrap up this post in some pretty paper and put a colorful bow on top, then look at it and say in my best Alex voice, “ALL DONE!” But this week, finishing the week's homework and video places me, strangely enough, at the beginning of really dealing with this patience thing.

And I know that the vague uneasiness and restlessless in my spirit means, “Hey, you’ve got some work to do...and it starts right now.”

JannaFlipflop Robin
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm - Saturday 8am. Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of His word.


Post a Comment

<< Home