Fruit of the Spirit – Patience (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - Patience

When I was a senior in high school, I remember being interviewed by a committee for a college scholarship. One of the men on the panel asked me what qualities I would someday look for in a future spouse. I replied with the first thing that popped into my mind. I said, ‘patience.’ The committee chuckled, but after being married for 25 years, I still stand by that answer. Patience is a great quality for the person you’re going to spend your days with to have – especially if you aren’t perfect or if you are a bit short on patience yourself!

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Patience is an interesting thing, isn’t it? How often have you said that you’ve lost your patience? Or that you are about to lose it? Like, where does it go? Can we search for it like a lost wallet? Is our patience just hiding somewhere out of sight, and all we have to do is find it? As adults we often think we need to teach our children patience, to teach them to delay gratification, to learn to wait their turn, to wait patiently in line — all of those things that we’re not very good at ourselves. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these.”

I read an article not too long ago by Rachel Stafford called “The Day I stopped saying Hurry Up.” She writes: “Six years ago I was blessed with a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the roses type of child. When I needed to be out the door, she was taking her sweet time picking out a purse and a glittery crown. When I needed to be somewhere five minutes ago, she insisted on buckling her stuffed animal into a car seat. When I needed to grab a quick lunch at Subway, she’d stop to speak to the elderly woman who looked like her grandma. When I had a full agenda that started at 6 a.m., she asked to crack the eggs and stir them ever so gently. My carefree child was a gift to my task-driven nature-but I didn’t see it. Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, “We don’t have time for this.” Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: “Hurry up.” Hurry up, we’re gonna be late. Hurry up and eat your breakfast. Hurry up and get dressed. Hurry up and brush your teeth. Hurry up and get in bed. Then one fateful day, things changed. We’d just picked my older daughter up from kindergarten and were getting out of the car. Not going fast enough for her liking, my older daughter said to her little sister, “You are so slow.” And when she crossed her arms and let out an exasperated sigh, I saw myself-and it was a gut-wrenching sight. I was a bully who pushed and pressured and hurried a small child who simply wanted to enjoy life.”

How often do we say hurry up in any given day? To others? Or maybe to ourselves? I know I say it, particularly to myself, in a multitude of ways every day, even to inanimate objects like the traffic light or the internet. I hate it when I feel like I am living my day racing the clock!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.’

What if, we could believe with all our hearts that God is not in a hurry? What if we could believe with all our hearts that God wants us to take our time and linger with one another, and in God’s presence, learning to wait not only on God, but with God? What if we could exemplify this attribute of God, both with others and with ourselves? Patience is, by God’s grace, refusing to live our days hurried and harried. It is living with steadfastness, perseverance and great hope, trusting that God will never fail or forsake us.

We read the verse from the book of Jonah where Jonah gets really angry with God for being slow to anger and abounding in love and mercy. He was angry that God was patient with the Ninevites. At the end of the story, God invites Jonah to see the situation with bigger eyes, from the perspective of God who loves all of God’s children.

However, we’re never really told how it works out for Jonah and his spirit.

As we walk through the days of this coming week, we are invited to ask ourselves, “How is it working out for us?” Are we able to step back and see life through God’s eyes? Are we able to hurry a little less and smell a few more roses?

I think it may start by abiding in Christ – by abiding close to the one who reveals God’s attribute of being slow – slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; close to the one who tells us again and again: “It’s okay.” “You don’t have to rush.” “Take your time.” “Don’t give up.” “I am with you, even till the end of the age.”

Blessings and grace,