For quite some time now, God has been working with me when it comes to developing patience. For those of you who have known me since my childhood, you are no doubt chuckling at this statement and will undoubtedly consider using the comments feature to share stories – feel free, just remember I have a blog and a good memory!
As I had said, God is actively working with me in building up my levels of patience in most every arena of my life. For better or for worse I am a visionary. I like to look at what is possible and to dream about ways to get there. I feel that everyone, every family, every organization must have vision in order to bring about positive change. Leading without vision is like sailing without a compass or a means of locomotion. You’ll eventually go somewhere, but you have no opportunity to set the course, pick the destination or the speed with which you get there. Traveling and treading water are two entirely different things.
This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Having a life driven by purpose is a good thing – hmmm “purpose driven life” – that’s a catchy phrase, but it would never sell books. Anyway, my problem isn’t having a vision of where I want to go. It’s about having the patience to go through the many steps needed to get to that point. Once I see it, I want it – now. As a result, I have struggled with being able to bring my great ideas to fruition. When I go through the necessary processes, I find success. When I impatiently race and skip steps, I fail. That may seem a harsh assessment, but remember, take away enough ingredients from chocolate chip cookies and you’re left with wallpaper paste.
Think of the patience that Jacob had to demonstrate as he waited to win the hand of his beloved Rachel. Laban required that he work for seven years. The Bible says that the love he had for her made the time fly. That’s a good thing, because as I see it seven years is a VERY LONG TIME to wait. 2,556 days to be precise. Need more perspective? Think about what was happening in the world in 2002. The New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl. The movie Chicago won the Oscar as best movie of the year. The Mozilla Firefox web browser was initially launched. Alicia Keys won the Grammy for best new music artist. The TV show Friends was #1 in the ratings while Politically Incorrect was cancelled. THe DC Sniper terrorized motorists around the nation’s capitol. Average retail price for a gallon of gas: $1.35. Celebrity deaths: Ann Landers, Dudley Moore, Johnny Unitas, Milton Berle, and Ted Williams.
Needless to say, the world has changed a great deal since then. Over seven years, it would be very easy to change our minds on what we desire, to lose focus. Depending upon the circumstances of your life, think of the number of jobs you’ve held, the number of people you’ve dated, the places you’ve lived, the cars you’ve owned, the things you’ve experienced since then. Many life changing things can happen in 2,556 days. How then to stay firmly fixed on just one? For Jacob, it came down to trust in God. His love for Rachel was strong, but it took trust in God’s promise to him to help him to make the commitments, to do the work, and to maintain the focus he needed to attain the goal of his heart. I’m sure he would have loved for God to make that 7 years into 7 months, maybe even 7 minutes – but he never lost sight of what God had promised him, and that blessing was sufficient to sustain him until he received what his heart desired.
Patience is important for our success in our lives not simply because we need to give ourselves checklists, but because God’s plan for us sometimes includes steps in order to reach the goals that He has placed before us. Luke 5:37-39 is a parable Christ shares about wineskins. He reminds us that people would never put new wine into an old wineskin – to do so would risk the wineskin breaking and the wine being lost. Before the wine can be deposited into the skin, work must be done to ensure that the skin into which it is going is ready. Like the wineskin, we too must ready ourselves for the blessings that God plans to bring us. Like Jacob, that requires work on our part, but we must remain mindful that it also requires a level of patience and trust that God’s timing is perfect – no matter how long it takes.