“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”— Hebrews 6:11-12
I remember once when I was a young girl, probably about six or seven years old, my dad presented me with a giant piece of cardboard – a blank canvas for a joint art project between himself and my sister and I. I was most excited, I just had one reservation; my sister was at this stage probably about three or four years old, and I did not have much faith in her artistic ability. I had seen the scribbles that she produced when equipped with crayon or paintbrush. I, on the other hand, was of course a proficient artist and I just could not stand by and witness this beautiful blank canvas being violated by a toddler’s mess.
I presented my case to the rest of the family, vehemently expressing my ambition to create a masterpiece, and asserting my opinion that my little sister should be excluded from the project. My parents tried to persuade me otherwise, and my sister claimed she would not ruin my plans. In the end a compromise was met. My sister was allocated one corner of the canvas and a border was drawn to limit her artistic contribution. Although not ideal, I acquiesced.
Back then I did not have enough patience to appreciate my sister’s contribution to the project, nor did I have the maturity to understand that the project was not about creating a masterpiece, but rather about creating a shared experience between a father and his daughters. My lack of patience caused me to overlook the process as integral to the outcome.
Value in the ‘now’
Patience is of course one of the seven spiritual fruits, and so we can be certain that it is good and even necessary for us to develop this attribute in our Christian lives. I think that in order to exercise patience, it is important that we believe that there is value in the ‘now’. I think that we could all probably admit that there have been times in our lives when, instead of valuing our ‘nows’ and looking for opportunities in them, we have drawn borders to limit what we see as interference, ignored or pushed aside people or circumstances because we don’t have the time or capacity or courage to deal with them. I have at times lacked the patience to muster up the time, capacity or courage to find value in a ‘now’. And in so doing, I probably missed out on something.
In our busy Western lives, we might consider that our Christ-like patience will help to get us through the rush hour traffic, or help us not to yell at the person who just pushed in front of us in the Mr Price queue. But I imagine that the original recipients of Paul’s message on the spiritual fruits required patience in order to endure suffering. They had to believe that there was value in their ‘nows’, even if there was pain in their ‘nows’. Today there are still many Christians around the world living in persecuted lands who know about this kind of patience. Their faith in the ultimate outcome enables them to patiently endure suffering.
All of us have or will face some kind of suffering at some point in our lives, and this is likely to be a time when we will have the opportunity to develop patience. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4,“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
So let’s keep our eyes on the goal so that we do not limit God’s work in our lives and the lives of those around us. May we take the time to look for the values in our ‘nows’ so that we are able to hold firm until the then. And when the ‘then’ is ‘now’, may we present artworks that show lives lived with patient endurance for the purpose of the Kingdom.