Let us not become weary in doing good, for we believe that in God's timing we will receive a harvest from our endurance. Wait patiently with hope for what you do not yet have. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Romans 12: 12
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord comes. Watch how the farmer waits patiently for land to yield its valuable crop, waiting for autumn and spring rains. May you also be patient and resolved because the Lord is near.
Why in the world does the love chapter begin with patience? Why is patience the first qualifier of love? Why not first, gentle or kind?
Love is the whole host of adjectives––patient, kind and content, humble, honourable, and forbearing, selfless, faithful and trusting, hopeful, merciful and enduring. But why does it begin with patience?
Life in London is crowded and fast-paced. It moves with a lulling momentum that "Londoners" learn to adapt to. I have grown accustomed to weaving in and around people on the street. I've grown used to double-booking events, or 'squeezing one more thing' into the calendar. But I have learned that no matter how busy our lives may be, our mindset is what determines our pace of life. We can choose to feel unhurried.
To do this successfully, we look at the posture of Christ as he walked on earth. Arguably, Jesus was the busiest human in history. He invested deeply and completely involved himself in the environments, cultural traditions, religious practices and lives of all who came to him for forgiveness, healing and love. He was simultaneously hated and wanted. People from across all ages, nations and societal backgrounds vied for his attention with gentle, reaching, desperate, forcing hands. In Luke 8, a woman reached out to touch the fringe of his clothing, knowing that it would be enough to heal her. In that moment, Peter was right––"Master," he said, "The crowds surround you and press in on you." And yet, Jesus moved with unhurried pace. He trusted his Heavenly Father to make all things perfect in their time.
As it is written in Ecclesiastes: "[God] has made everything beautiful in his time. He has placed eternity in the heart of man, so that none can find out the work that God makes from beginning to the end." The apostle John writes: Through God all things were made, without him nothing was made.
God is omnipresent in everything. His spirit moves through the world, and through his believers. God did not and never will cause ill. But with divine authority as our omnipotent Creator, God works for the good of those who love him to make all things timely and new (Romans 8:28). He turns our suffering into character, our weeping to joy, and our humility into hope (Romans 5:3).
Because we are made in the image of God, we are built with an internal sense of the eternal. We know that nothing is final, that things matter in a cosmic sense. Knowing that God is in control and that he orders everything at an appropriate time does not change the fact that we may not understand his plan. Sometimes he reveals his reasoning, and sometimes he is content to leave us with a promise that everything he does will bring glory to his name (Isaiah 48:9, Romans 8:28).
Musician and worship leader Brooke Poindexter writes:
It is the law of all progress, that [growth] is made by passing through stages of instability, and that [this process] may take a very long time. So it is with you; your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow. Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Obligations, expectations, wonder and want. Feelings, emotions. All of these things contend with one another and will us in different directions. While many of the decisions we must make in life are neither right nor wrong, they are highly transformative. The chaos of our busy schedules reaches out and yanks us from one thing toward another. And always, in the midst of battling priorities, we are making choices. Where to go? Who to meet? What to give our attention to? For how long?
I think about these questions and wonder what it means to wait patiently on God while simultaneously continuing to build a life that makes good of the gifts that God gave us to steward. How do we wait patiently?
We wait patiently by loving God and loving others. Choosing to wait patiently is choosing to have hope. And "hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:4).
Writer and New York Times bestseller Ann Voskamp writes: "Love can only be patient –– if it is first grateful enough to embrace what is right now."
Dutch Catholic priest, writer and theologian Henri Nouwen carries this forward, describing patience as "the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden will manifest itself to us."
When we choose to be content and embrace each moment in its wavelike rise and fall, tug and pull, high and low, we find that the moment opens its arms and surprises us. To quote Voskamp: "Every moment holds a gift – and if you're patient enough to hold space for the moment and not rush on – you'll get to hold its gift."
Although we may not understand or like the middle space between our striving and our fulfilled dreams, there is comfort in accepting the mysterious wisdom of a loving God, who destined our glory before time began (1 Corinthians 2:7). He is patient with us. He listens to our questions and answers them with personalised visions and small revelations. He knows that human minds are limited to what can be observed and worked out with human reason. But this does not stop him from wanting to fill us with peace. With the patience of a Good Father, God reassures us of his love. In every season, over and over again, God reminds us that He is love. A love that embraces us where we are the right now.
My friends, it's okay to be busy. But be intentional to ask for God's guidance in the busyness. Choose to feel unhurried as you walk from one place to the next. God graces our time when we lean into his presence. When we smile, say hello, pray. When we spend an extra six minutes listening to a friend in need, calling home to family, admiring the view. The Holy Spirit brings rhythms to busyness, peace to uncertainty, nourishment in disappointment and discernment for decision-making. The more we lean into the Holy Spirit, the more mature we will become ---- a maturity that enables us to love others with the grace that God first gave to us.
My friends, as you begin this year:
Do not try to force upon today what God's timing will make of you tomorrow.
Commit the things you love ––– even the things you wish you had ––– (your waiting and your will) to the Lord. He will establish your plans as He alone knows best (Proverbs 16:3).