Patience and Personal Discipleship

Good things come to those who wait, I’ve been told, but, honestly, I have a really hard time with that.

Let me give you three situations many of us face. Number one: music tries to calm me down as I anxiously wait behind unending lines of traffic, hoping I arrive reasonably on-time to my next appointment. Number two: I carefully choose which check-out line at the store I will head to with my items. I evaluate whether it might make the most sense to go for self-check-out and skip dealing with people altogether. Number three: I head to the DMV, knowing that the actual business I have there does not necessarily need to take more than a few moments but anticipating the reality that I will wait agonizingly long to simply get this taken care of.

“Good things come to those who wait,” but wouldn’t we all prefer to have good things come precisely when we want them? I know that we have heard patience is a virtue, but deep down we all want instant gratification. Now, more than ever, the possibility of instant gratification is within reach as technology married with enterprise has brought us the possibility of getting what we want immediately while never leaving the comfort of our homes. Don’t misunderstand me, I am as prone to enjoy Netflix and Amazon Prime as the next person, but our culture of instant gratification is doing something to us that is not nearly all helpful. The eight-second attention span[1] and inability to delay gratification are making us more anxious and impatient,[2] affecting more than our pace of life and consumption of goods. Now we say, “good things come to those who wait…but let my waiting be short (e.g., eight seconds for information, sixty seconds for music and movie downloads, and twenty-four hours for my online shopping)!”

This anxious impatience is eroding our spiritual lives as well. Spiritual transformation only comes via “a long obedience in the right direction.”[3] Paul the Apostle describes our growth as Christians as a process of growth and maturing, moving from spiritual infancy to nature adulthood, “so that the body of Christ may be built up…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We understand this physically, expecting babies to grow to toddlers and on to teenagers before becoming adults. Yet, somehow, we forget that this same process of growth applies to the spiritual life of discipleship. It is not something that comes quickly, but must go through a similar process of growth and maturing over time. Spiritual growth does not happen overnight, let alone in sixty seconds, but must happen over a lifetime.

There is no more valuable, nor more difficult, character trait necessary in the Christian life in this regard than patience.  The Scripture shows both that patience is invaluable in our own lives (Proverbs 19:11; Ecclesiastes 7:8; James 5:7) and in our relationships with others (Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 3:10). Our discipleship, as a matter of fact, is a growth in which God shows forth His patience with us from start to finish (Romans 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:16). If we want to grow with God, following Jesus as our Leader and Savior, then we must commit to the patient journey of discipleship over the long haul.

Within the Bible, one of the clearest pictures of this is seen in the Psalms of Ascent. This little collection of psalms was utilized for prayer and worship on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Groups of believers would journey together, caring for one another and building one another up, as they prepared to meet with God and His people in worship. The pilgrimage journey of the Psalms of Ascent provides us with a soundtrack for the patient journey of discipleship. We need songs in our mouths and hearts, we need others to journey with, and we need lives that move steadily closer to God. 

This patient journey of discipleship, and the place that patience begins to have in our lives, is often seen as a key to seeing change in the life of others (Proverbs 25:15; 2 Timothy 4:2). In a culture of anxious impatience where many have misplaced hopes of relief, a patient, peaceful community of people living daily life with God speaks louder than all sorts of religious activity.

Maybe now is a time to disconnect from the impatient pulse of a technologized angst in order to reconnect with the patient journey of discipleship with God. Our very lives, both in word and in deed, may become a living witness to an eternal God who is unhurried in His life and purposes.


[1] Timothy Egan, “The Eight-Second Attention Span,” New York Times, January 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/opinion/the-eight-second-attention-span.html.

[2] Emma Taubenfeld, “The Culture of Impatience and Instant Gratificaiton,” Study Breaks, March 23, 2017, https://studybreaks.com/2017/03/23/instant-gratification/.

[3] With a nod to both Eugene Peterson and Friedrich Nietszche.

[This post originally appeared as part of the Gospel in Life blog.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 May 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Martin Buber“Modernity, Faith, and Martin Buber” – I don’t remember when it was, but as a young man preparing for ministry there was a season where I seemed to encounter references to certain books over and over again. One of those was Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which continues to sit on my shelf today ever since I first read it years ago. Buber is an interesting combination of innovative modernist philosopher and ardent Jewish thinker. Adam Kirsch offers a reappraisal of Buber and the ongoing significance of his thought in The New Yorker, which is well worth the read.

 

synagogue shootingSynagogue Shooting in California – So much to say about this, but let me share two articles that I found thought-provoking. The first is Carl Trueman’s “Who’s to Blame When the Shooter Is One of Our Own?” in Christianity Today, which considers in depth what this means for us as Christians today.  The second is David Brooks’ exploration of the pervasive culture of fear that grips us in his opinion piece, “An Era Defined by Fear.” I offered my own brief response, “Six Pastoral Reflections on the California Synagogue Shooting,” this past Wednesday.

 

89918“Augustine, Son of Her Tears” – A thoroughly North African developed version of St. Augustine’s life has come to the screen. You can watch the trailer here and read a review of the film by Christianity Today as well as a few other sources here and here. This looks fascinating, as someone interested particularly in the history of North African Christianity. I am inquiring about how to view the movie directly and look forward to finding out more information soon.

 

90263“The Rise of Conversational Churches” – Anyone familiar with C. Christopher Smith and his work with the slow church movement or The Englewood Review of Books, will enjoy reading this article based on his recent book, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. “In this age of social media, it is widely accepted that we don’t know how to talk together—and especially with those whose perspective differs greatly from our own….Amid these widespread failures of conversation, some churches across North America are devoting themselves to learning the practice of conversation, among their members and with their neighbors.”

 

les murray

“Les Murray, poet and ‘gentle titan of Australian letters’, dies aged 80” – Les Murray has been one of the finest poetic voices in English during our generation. I’ve enjoyed his works tremendously, and I know that I’m not alone in that. It was with sadness that I heard of Murray’s passing. “Les Murray, a distinguished figure of Australian letters, has died at the age of 80 on Monday after a long illness. One of Australia’s most successful and renowned contemporary poets, Murray’s career spanned more than 40 years. He published close to 30 books, including most recently a volume of collected works through Black Inc.” You might also enjoy David Mason’s essay, “Les Murray, Dissident Poet,” in First Things.

 

Griswold-GunReformPennsylvania-2“God, Guns, and Country: The Evangelical Fight Over Firearms” – “The next morning, before leaving on their trip, Claiborne and Martin kneeled on the sidewalk in Kensington next to their mobile forge, among a pile of guns that they’d collected from neighbors or found in abandoned homes. Martin was sawing an AK-47 in half, and preparing to turn it into a mattock—an old-fashioned hoe with prongs on one side, which is used for breaking up clods of earth. He had grown up in a conservative evangelical church in Colorado. “It was very much God, guns, and country,’ he said. But in college he’d decided to return to his family’s Mennonite roots—a tradition that emphasizes nonviolence. With the help of a metalworker in Colorado, he had taught himself the rudiments of blacksmithing. Martin picked up the barrel of the AK-47 with a pair of long steel tongs and placed it into the forge until it softened and glowed a molten red.”

 

_106638359_65c8f2db-b008-41af-83e3-8d40fcc90a41“Burkina Faso: Christians killed in attack on church” – “Gunmen have opened fire on a church in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least six people, officials say. The attackers reportedly arrived on seven motorbikes at the end of Sunday’s service and killed the pastor, two of his sons and three other worshippers. It is the first attack on a church since jihadist violence erupted in the West African country in 2016. Fighters affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as well as the local Ansarul Islam have been active.”

 

Music: Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, 1. Spring

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]