Is Praying For Patience Dangerous??
Behind God and my family and slightly above impromptu home redecorating comes my love for writing. Seriously, I only made a special effort to mention God and family as my MOST primary loves in case some of you (and you know who you are) don’t automatically assume that God and family are naturally implicit priorities for me even when I make a statement like, “writing is my first love!”. But here, as I boast of my love for writing I must also announce that I’m going to be pulling back a bit from blog world. I’ve decided to commit myself to a different type of project. Although it does still include writing it will be a non-blogging project.
I feel so excited about this new venture but it also feels SUPER weighty and rather intimidating. So, I’m going to need to devote the chunk of time I used to use for blogging towards this new project. Confession: my “blog writing time” was pretty irregular, sporadic and sometimes nonexistent, but I’ll be borrowing from it anyhow and essentially pressing the snail-speed button on blogging for this season.
But I promise to not be too far away because although I've announced this impending distance, I anticipate that there will periodically still be things I’ll feel compelled to discuss here....as I do today...
And the topic I’m feeling compelled to examine today (in classic blog form) is patience. This little doozie...it nearly begged me to comment. I was baited and yes, I have been known to be fairly easy to bait, but this one truly deserves mentioning...I swear!
So...patience....it’s that thing we all WANT more of, because it’s that thing we all NEED more of. Us parents especially know how desperately we need it and how pitifully we lack it, with just the one task of getting our little ones off to school in the AM.
I also feel my intense need for patience when I’m sitting in my idling car, behind that driver who’s completely unconcerned with making it through the intersection before our light turns yellow and then red again, or (here's another good one!) when the checker at the grocery store would rather chat about nothing and everything while S-L-O-W-L-Y, ever - so - slowly, bagging my groceries.
Patience, like they say, it’s a virtue...that not many of us have conquered.
So what do we do when we find ourselves staring down the barrel of this unfriendly character weakness??? Well, from a Christian perspective the action item here is prayer. But nearly all Christians know that this specific request, the request for patience, is a sticky one.
Why sticky?? Well many of us believe this request is like a two sided coin; one side blessing and the other side a curse. We tend to believe that developing this one character trait only comes at a great cost and God is our mighty debt collector on his throne, requiring that we pay up in the form of enduring EXTRA trials; namely trudging through heaps of scenarios that require extra patience...so we can learn patience.
I am VERY guilty of this sort of thinking. Through the years, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I intentionally avoided asking God to “bless” me with patience. I thought...who needs that sort of blessing. I’d rather not be “blessed” in such a way.
I was hanging with some girlfriends yesterday and this very topic came up. One friend asked for prayer for a number of things, one of which was our notorious “P-word” (patience) and quickly another friend chimed in saying, “uh-oh, are you sure you want to ask for that??” The whole thing got me wondering...is this really who we think God is?? Because if this is really who God is, why would any of us feel safe bringing him our requests, our burdens, our cares or hurts?? Why would we pray at all?? Are we only committing our lives to him out of fear of the alternative? And do we pray merely because he requires that we do so?? And if this is really him, is it possible that he treats all of our requests (mine and yours) in the same manner that he does patience?
If I were to transfer God’s response to the request for patience over to all character improvement requests than shouldn’t I expect the desire for humility to result in a giant and unhinged, escaped elephant to mistake my face for the most comfortable seat in town??? Of course, this is a completely ridiculous example, but it hilariously makes the point that using the "patience logic", I should expect for God to align the universe and all it's components in a grand and masterful humiliation of me. Because feeling humiliated leads to humility...and wasn't that the request? Seems improbable that patience would be the only character trait that God might want to teach to us the hard way.
So, if this is who God really is, I think I'm ready to opt out! That guys sounds super mean. He sounds unkind, abusive and stingy; slow to bless, quick to use our pleas for a greater measure of him to remind us of our smallness.
Maybe I'm obsessing; blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Maybe that little suggestion that we use caution when praying, that we watch our backs isn't that big of a deal, right!? Maybe it's too small for me to be saddling my high horse over and whipping around my dissecting, investigative thoughts.
But honestly, I’m starting to feel frustrated...OK, maybe irate over some of our unhealthy thinking. These were my beliefs for YEARS. I didn’t break free from them yesterday in a moment of celestial inspiration. It was a few years ago that my mindset started shifting away from God being a denying, hardhearted, withholding, punishing sort of God. But for years I believed this was EXACTLY the sort of God I served.
Why would I have carried on that way for so long?? The truth...I was like a whipped puppy, cowering at the feet of my master, afraid to question, afraid of the beatings I might amass with each misstep. But after doing a bit of research and encountering some healthy biblical teaching, I came to realize that my master, my God, didn’t really look ANYTHING like the God of the Bible. Finding verses that revealed God’s true character with incredible and extravagant displays of kindness, love, generosity, forgiveness, endless chances, goodness, non-judgment, humility, gentleness and on and on and on, left me feeling astounded by how I’d been able to embrace the deception for so long.
Why hadn’t I seen (not just read but really SEEN) verses like, 1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” or Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus talks about how good a father God is to his children, giving only good gifts and not bad, or Zephaniah 3:17 (I LOVE this one!!), which says “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” So good right!? Then of course there’s always John 3:16, which many of us know from memory, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that WHOEVER believes in him will not die but have everlasting life.” These verses represent only the tiniest slice of what's packed into the Bible, boldly parading how desperately God loves us (All of us, each of us).
Oh how I wish we could all just identify the lies we believe and ditch them!! But I know it’s not as simple or as easy as that. Judgments, misjudgments and aligning with lies that seem and feel like truth are a part of life (sadly). My eyes are open to this one, but I’m sure there are a number of others I’m blind to right now.
Mental adjustments take time and sometimes they also require a great deal of sorting, healing and forgiveness, because lies can damage us. But maybe if we could just come together on this one item (I know it’s kind of HUGE item, but it’s SO important!!)...that God is good and loving, not spiteful or manipulative, not vindictive or belittling, he doesn’t interact with us in a way that resembles Karma and he wants us; every piece of us, the pretty pieces and the not so pretty ones. He wants us ALL the time. Not solely when we’re behaving well. When we're angelic and when we're despicable, his love for us is relentless, constant, unending and unimaginably big.
With passion and fervor, let’s no longer accept the notion that our God is one who would take a sincere prayer for patience and reward that act of humility with a season of agony until patience is birthed. That's so icky and that’s not our God!
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Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.