One night during my second year of graduate school, somewhere in the suburban sprawl, I sat across from my pastor at a Culver’s unloading my disappointment and anxiety. Things had not gone according to plan, and I was feeling the world shift beneath my feet.
I sat across from him hoping he would save me from my desperation – either by offering advice or, perhaps, another opportunity to find through some other means the fulfillment of my desire for belonging and identity.
This wasn’t the first time I reached out to someone of perceived authority in my life seeking relief. Others had graciously leaned over the precipice with an extended hand and pulled me out from the tension. I needed that kind of rescue again, I thought.
On this night, however, under the glow of fast-food-florescent lights, this pastor seemed less concerned with my struggle than I was. As I spoke he leaned back – looking away and stroking his chin. “Hmm,” he grunted casually, as I bore my soul.
I waited. Hoping for another means of escape. He hmm-ed again.
“How old are you?” he asked, still looking away. I was twenty-four at the time. I thought he already knew, but I still answered the question.
“Hmm…twenty four…twenty four.” He kept repeating the number like he was searching for something. “I remember when I was twenty four. I was an idiot. You’ll be fine.”
We are impatient. [Well, I am impatient, at least.] And restless. Many of us spend a good bit of energy frantically searching for something we don’t already have that isn’t where we already are. In my impatience, I am reactionary – responding hastily before I’ve listened, mourned, or struggled long enough to evaluate clearly what is going on in me and around me.
Our impatience doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The bits of life move so quickly around us. Blogs moves so quickly. How do we have time to listen in this flurry content? It gets dished-out at this rate because we prefer it, the marketers say. “Keep it digestible and fresh lest we lose interest.” God forbid we lose interest. But do we really prefer this tempo? Where is the space to ruminate?
I sometimes wonder if the way we go about dialogue – the blogs, the comments, the tweets – is nothing more than a virtualized sound and fury that contributes to the hyperventilation of our soul.
Impatience is bred in a world of lack – especially lack of time. We resort to survival techniques, desperate measures, and acts of self-preservation in cultures of lack because we perceive there is never enough. There is no space for listening or long-suffering or interruption. Impatience is ever vigilant to whatever threatens the pursuit for the next thing.
The relationship between our impatience and technology is a perfect co-dependency – they are mutually reinforcing. [By “technology” I mean anything we use, electronic or otherwise, to increase the efficiency/speed by which we address the lack. In this way, technology is a type of magic.] The technologies enable anxious habits emerging from our lack, and our lack continues to perpetuate the flourishing of those technologies.
Remove the technologies and others will take their place as long as, deep in our bones, we live in a world where there is not enough time. Without addressing what is at work in our lack we will, inevitably, be stuck in all the feverish patterns that characterize our hyperventilation.
The problem is not that everyone has forgotten that patience is a virtue. If that were the case, a few well-crafted tweets could do the trick. The problem is the gap between what we know and what we practice.
And patience is not practiced because it seems impossible. It doesn’t “make sense” in a world of lack. There is too much at stake to forfeit control by watching and waiting. Our bodies are trained for a world where it is simply not safe to be patient
In the midst of our hyperventilation and restlessness, the good news is that God has transformed time in Christ. In Christ, God has made time the arena for kairos joy, which means that our desperation can become the very space for the flooding-in of hope. In Christ, there is plenty of space and freedom for tending to the slow work of the kingdom. There is no safer, more sensible, space to be patient than in God’s Kingdom in Christ
Patience, therefore, is grounded in God becoming time. Because God became time in Jesus Christ, time is redeemed. There is, now, always enough time because in God there is only fullness. We have everything we need. This means that the threat of loss when we give up control evaporates because all loss is swallowed up in resurrection life.
If there is enough time, it means it’s safe for us to sit patiently in the tension of our brokenness, which allows the room for acts of surrender to play out. We don’t have to freak out. We can truly be present to the work God is doing.
Without space to wait and watch we will always be slaves to chronos – never aware of, or open to, disruptive kairos joy. Patience opens us to opportunities to receive the love we have tried to accumulate through force or speed in chronos.
Patience is for entering the space where the Spirit perfects God’s work in us. This takes time, but the good news is that there is plenty of time for it in Christ. In God’s time, in fact, every event is an opportunity to become more fully who he declares us to be in Christ. But we must be patient.
Patience looks like making room for things to go badly – for times of awkwardness and discomfort.
Patience looks like making room for people to be a problem.
Patience looks like being present long enough in the neighborhood to discern how/where God’s kingdom is breaking forth and what to do about it.
Patience is able to suffer institutional failure; it does not neurotically, fearfully avoid it.
Patience creates space for listening to those who disagree.
There is time for all of this in Christ.
Liturgy Trains the Church for Patience (and Impatience)
Sporadic liturgies of consumption and escape characterize those living in lack of time. By this I mean all of the habits and rhythms of grasping for what we do not have or avoiding what we know hurts by constantly pushing forward to the next thing. These habits/rhythms are often cloaked in the spirit of entrepreneurialism, efficiency, and success.
We are usually unaware of their power in our life because they do not operate on the surface but rather from the deep belief that we do not currently have what we need to be okay. These liturgies form us for impatience. They are always, ultimately destructive.
The liturgy of God’s kingdom in Christ, on the other hand, trains us for patience. These are the intentional habits and rhythms that orient us toward God’s time by putting our body in the way of the fullness of God’s grace. This looks like everything from regularly receiving at the Table to practicing silence instead of playing another round of Candy Crush.
This true liturgy (it is true in the sense that it aligns us with the grain of God’s world) trains us for patience because, by practicing it, we are offering our body unto the fullness that we may not yet feel to be true emotionally. This liturgy, in the fullness of God’s grace, also sets us up for kairos joy. It heightens our awareness of all that God makes available to us right where we are.
What habits and rhythms characterize our life together? Are they shaping us more for patience or impatience?
Join me in surrendering to God’s time today with this prayer – you fill in the blank: “God, because you offer fullness in Christ, help me to trust there is space to be patient in the midst of ______.”