Patience is an ironic virtue. We’re not born with it. It isn’t built overnight. It isn’t easy. It can be chosen, but it is sometimes forced by necessity. We praise the development of the skill, but we hate the process.
Back when I was first starting to read the Bible for real, for example, I did sort of the same thing. I spent a lot of time around the New Testament and people who talked mostly about it. Justifiable, right? We live in the age of Christ, the time of redemption… but we do have a past as the church, rooted in the history of Israel and the promises God made to them.
I think the thing that most discouraged me from reading the writings of the Old Covenant is the fact that there are a lot of details. Genealogies, dynasties, laws. Details, details, details. That fascinates some people. I am not one of them. I like to see the story arc, the big picture, the plotline. Where did we come from, and where are we going? The rest can be worked out along the way.
I imagine God knows what it’s like to be a writer, spending painstaking hours (read: millennia) guiding the lives of the characters that He wrote detail by detail onto the pages of time. Great care was taken to make sure His children fulfilled the purposes He had for them. This is still true of us today.
Life can be about as riveting as 1 & 2 Chronicles sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. It can grate on you, the droll, seemingly insignificant course corrections we make. How close are you to the yellow line? Are you in one of many lanes exiting from the same highway to the same street? Why does it matter? Why must we wade through grueling details day in and day out? Why can’t we just get to the point?
It’s so easy to look for the end. From the perspective of someone living their life, it’s hard to see how important the little details are. It’s easy to see that they stand in the way of you making it to the shining future you have planned for yourself.
We often skim through the chapters we don’t like to get to the part we want. We see the things we don’t like as obstacles rather than stair steps. You have to ascend a mountain, not float to the top of it. That’s not the nature of things. And the perspective you have from the ground may be that ascension is impossible, but there is always a way. It just takes effort, energy, and a spirit of willingness to work your way up little by little, to stop to rest, recuperate, and reflect before starting again.
It’s much easier to simply not scale the mountain. Nothing gained, nothing lost except for whatever you hoped for. But it’s not just that. By refusing to move forward in the story of your life, you must miss out. Even when you skim through an upcoming chapter of your life only to see that it’s full of mundane, or maybe just difficult, things that you don’t care to deal with, refusing to read it doesn’t mean you don’t still have to go through it to get to the end of the story.
There’s a thing in fiction writing called character development. It’s how a character in a story changes throughout the plot. It isn’t always for the good, but for the main characters in a story, it’s almost a must… I take that back. It is a must. Otherwise, there is no story, only stasis, static, unchanging and meaningless noise. That’s what it’s like to choose not to move forward into the chapters we don’t like, that we feel are a waste before we’ve even given them a fair chance.
How much do we miss by not paying attention to the part of the story we are truly in? What lessons are we willing to forego simply for the sake of finding ourselves in the place we want most but cannot accept that we are not prepared to live in? Are they lessons about life that we don’t want to learn? Are they lessons about others that we feel will only serve to let down our faith in humanity? Are they lessons about ourselves that we fear will rob us of any reason to see any good in anything we touch?
But God didn’t make us for a life without hope. Even in this fallen world, there is still hope. There are still cracks in the fleshly facades of even the worst of sinners, through which light can shine. It doesn’t even usually matter whether or not they have acknowledged the truth that Christ alone can offer. Somehow, even in the darkest of places through the most fragile vessels, light shines, persistent, unquenchable, even if its true source isn’t recognized.
If the light is so unquenchable, though, why do we act like it is? Why do we panic, as a dear frientor put it, that we will miss the things that God wants us to see? We scramble to put our lives together in ways we actually can’t. We try to move magma with our hands, carve water into form like it is ice. Rather than wait and prepare and study for the places we’re going to go, we over-exert ourselves to the point of despair and grow tired, somehow wondering why all the exhaustion.
Why the rush? Do we have somewhere to be that God doesn’t know about? Why not let ourselves grow where we are, and continue to grow wherever we go? Read the chapter. Every detail. Every word. Every nuance. Follow every curve of the story arc. Become who we were meant to be again. Trust the promises we have been given. You have not been abandoned here. You have not been forgotten. Calm down. You are loved, wherever you are, and God is faithful to take you where you need to be in His time.