Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Wisdom of Patience

You find all kinds of interesting things on social media. Viewpoints that you agree with, perspectives that infuriate you, videos that make you laugh, others that make you cry, and photos that truly embody the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

I saw one of the latter recently, a large dog patiently and wisely waiting a few feet away as a skunk munches from his bowl of food. Not sure who took the photo, but the message is classic. Common sense may be a vanishing commodity among the human race, but it seems canines still know how to use it.

This got me thinking about how patience and wisdom converge – and how when exercised properly, they can save us from a world of hurt.

I think of wisdom as common sense with a college education. Although some of the wisest people I’ve met never took a college entrance exam. They gained their wisdom while attending the School of Hard Knocks & Experience. They’d be quick to agree that if a skunk should start gobbling your lunch, maybe staying hungry for a little while longer really isn’t that bad an option.

Sadly, patience isn’t such a prized quality anymore, either. We wait anxiously for that email, or texted photo, someone promised us just seconds ago. Nuking a frozen meal in the microwave for a couple of minutes seems like an eternity. We pay extra for that online treasure to ensure we receive it by FedEx tomorrow.

College grads change jobs almost as fast as they change their minds, unwilling to invest the time required to advance through the corporate ranks. “Why can’t I just start as CEO the first day?” Newlyweds exchange vows with visions of unending bliss, then decide to bail out after a year or two because the challenge of turning two very different individuals into a real husband-wife team is too difficult. Stockholders aren’t interested in long-range plans – they want huge dividends now.

From a spiritual perspective, however, patience isn’t just an option. It’s mandatory. I can think of times when I was eager to make a job change, but God kept saying, “Not yet.” He used Psalm 37 in particular to hammer home this idea for me. After reading encouraging words like, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this…” (Psalm 37:4-5), I was thinking, “All right. I’m on it. Delight. Commit. Trust. Okay, Lord, let’s getting moving!”

A couple verses later, however, I read, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). Huh? What’s up with that? Who wants to wait?

But that’s exactly what God wanted me to do. And in case I missed the instruction the first time, later in the same psalm He said, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way…” (Psalm 37:34). In fact, the more I looked into it, the more I realized He’s a big fan of patience and waiting. In Psalm 46:10, for example, God inspired the psalmist to write, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Many of the patriarchs of the faith – Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, the prophets, Peter, Paul and others – became experts at being patient, whether they liked it or not. God’s timing, they discovered, wasn’t the same as theirs. Yet in the end they were wise enough to realize His plans and intentions were far better than anything they could have imagined.

So next time you’re feeling antsy and something inside of you is screaming, “Do something! Anything! Even if it’s wrong!”, remember the skunk feasting on the dog’s food while Fido is wisely keeping his distance. You’ll rarely go wrong by exercising patience and wisdom.

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