Summary: Patience is a gift of the Spirit to be openned each day, not a form of self discipline to be mastered.
On Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m., I meet with a group of six men where we offer each other support, encouragement and accountability as each of us seek to live like Jesus lived and love like Jesus loved. Last Tuesday one of the men in the group asked us all to pray for him to be more patient. The minute he said that every head in the room began to nod. All of us said we needed those same prayers. And I remembered my lack of patience last Saturday morning.
We had arranged to do a Habitat for Humanity fund raising event with KCKL radio at Groom and Sons in Mabank. The radio station was to start their remote broadcast at 10 o’clock but we had planned to arrive a Grooms at 9 to get everything ready. Grooms had agreed to set up at tent and to stack up 120 sheets of sheet rock which we hoped to sell to donors. When I arrive a little before nine there was no tent and no sheetrock. When I went inside the store to see what was going on, I could find no one who knew anything about the event. After about 15 minutes I finally found a nice lady who agreed to call the woman which whom I had made arrangements. I went back outside and all our volunteers had arrived and immediately asked me where was the tent and sheetrock. I marched back inside and the lady said that the woman who was in charge was running a little late but was on her way. You can imagine that my patience was about exhausted by this time. I went back outside and began to rant and rave about incompetence and irresponsibility and people who didn’t follow through. Ken Beasley, my wise spiritual counselor, was listening to my tirade and walked up to me and very calmly and quietly said, “You need to chill out. It’s going to be alright!”
So when I left the group on Tuesday morning I decided that I would write a sermon on patience for today. Boy do I regret that decision.
The story is told of a young Christian who went to an older Christian for help. "Will you please pray for me that I may be more patient?" he asked. So they knelt together & the old man began to pray. "Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send him tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man..." At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience." "Ah," responded the wise old Christian, "it’s through tribulation that we learn patience." When we ask God to help us be more patient, it seems God sends us opportunities to be more patient.
That’s certainly what happened to me this week after I foolishly decided to write a sermon on patience. When I got to church after my group that Tuesday morning, the computer crashed. Nothing I could do resurrected it. And Paul May wasn’t home. Later, I decided to call the phone company to see if we could get DSL service here at the church. They said no. Then they said yes. Two days later when the modem they had promised to send me still had not arrived, they said no again. Our copy machine has been out of service for almost three weeks. The company we have used for years tried to fix it the first week but failed. Since then they have not returned my daily calls. Even though I left a message on their voice mail warning them that they would spend an extra year in hell for every week they left the church without a computer. Maybe that is why they didn’t return my calls. They finally called Friday morning when I was working at the Habitat house. They agreed to come to fix it later that morning. I ran home, took a shower to hurry over to the church so they would not have the excuse that they were there and I was not. At 3:30 that afternoon, they showed up. But they have to come back Monday because the part they brought to fix it was broken when they took it out of the box. And did I mentioned that our kitchen sink at home decided to stop up? “Lord, give me patience. And give it to me NOW!”
I do a lot of things better than I do patience. It ranks right up there with forgiveness on my list of potential growth areas. One definition of patience certainly confirms my inadequacy. If you define patience as the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously, I would have to plead not guilty. Just check me out on Christmas morning when the rest of the family is dragging their feet and I am ready to see what Santa brought me. It is not a pretty sight.