“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22–23, 25 (Bearing Fruit Series)
I once knew a girl named Patience. She used to cut my hair back in college (when I had hair to cut). We were both single, and I got it in my head that I wanted to ask her out. I was also kind of shy, so I came up with the kind of plan only clever bible college dorks come up with. I did a search for every instance of the world “patience” in the Bible (around 30 depending on the translation).
I took all of those verses, copied and pasted them into a word document, and then, under each, wrote a two or three line commentary about how each verse was God saying that we should be together… and then I printed it and put it in her mailbox at school. I did it this way, because if she was interested, then she might find it clever. If she wasn’t interested, I could pass it off as a joke. She wasn’t interested, so I passed it off as a joke. She was true to her name, patient. Patience endured my clumsiness, and we remained friends.
When we talk about patience (the virtue, not the person), we are usually talking about being able to endure a circumstance or situation without getting angry or upset. That is all well and good and true. But when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, I think there is a little more to it. I think wisdom and hope play a much bigger role than simple endurance.
As we grow closer to God and the fruits of the Spirit manifest in our lives we grow in our knowledge of who God is and how God interacts with us. With that comes wisdom. The wisdom to know that, while what we see may be scary or depressing or horrifying, we know that God sees more and is always active in the world. So we wait with patience. We don’t get angry or anxious, because we know God’s heart and have hope that the situation will change or that it will make sense.
As we advocate for social justice and want the world to change, it can be tempting to lash out in violence to try and speed the process along. But being close to God, walking with Christ, gives us the wisdom to be patient and know that God’s heart will lead us to justice.
And sometimes there are situations that you cannot control. They are what they are. For example, whenever I need to run into the store only needing a gallon of milk, you know the line at the checkout will be 50 people deep. It is what it is. I cannot change it. The only thing I can change is my reaction to it, and that is where we taste the fruit of patience. We take a deep breath. We see that we are not alone. And we recognize the shared humanity of everyone there from the people in line ahead of you to the cashier who may be having a rough day of their own.
Patience is an easier word to say than a virtue to have. We live in a time where anything we want can be ordered and arrive on our doorstep in 24 hours. In times like these, the fruit of patience is needed more than ever. Draw close to God. See as God sees. Find the wisdom and the hope offered on our journey with Christ. And taste of the fruit of patience.