Emily thought she would be a new mom by now.
And still, we wait.
In yesterday's sermon on Galatians 5:16-26 at NCCC, I said, "When someone asks us how your spiritual life is doing, we should think first of to what extent our lives are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We should think about to what extent the Spirit's fruit is being born in our lives. Don't jump immediately to the practices that help cultivate the fruit. Look for the source of the fruit…and look for the fruit itself…When someone asks me how my walk with Christ is going, it's tempting for me to look first to the spiritual practices. How much have I prayed lately? How much have I studied the Bible recently? How much have I shared my faith lately? These are all good questions that we need to ask from time to time. But they are not the first ones we should ask. The best questions to ask to answer the question, "How is your spiritual life?" Are questions like:
- Am I becoming a more patient person?
- Are there "works of the flesh" that have a hold in my life?
- Is God empowering me to be a more self-controlled person?
- Am I living a joyful life, regardless of my circumstances? After all, it's God's Spirit that gives joy, not our circumstances.
Patience is the fruit of the Spirit that I need to have cultivated in me the most. Because I'm task-oriented, patience doesn't come naturally to me. I'm capable of being quite patient on long-term, important matters. However, this isn't the case on the daily stuff—the times when someone is taking a long time to do something or get ready for this or that. I'm impatient with people I think are discouraging to others and I am sometimes too hurried to have substantial, attentive conversations with others. An old Dutch proverb says, "A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains." I don't have a bushel of brains, so I'm hoping the Lord will grant me one more handful of patience.
When I look around for "how" patience is cultivated, few seem to want to take a stab at that one. I can just picture the advice… "Go wait somewhere."
"Spend more time at the DMV."
"Walk in to P.F. Chang's on a Saturday night at 7 with no reservation and ask for a table for 16…and wait."
"Drive to work at approximately 7:45 AM and home at approximately 5:30 PM taking only freeways."
Is that how we do it? Surely not. So, how does it happen? I'm sure prayer is part of it. I'm sure other spiritual practices can play a part. However, perhaps the spiritual practice that is most effective in cultivating patience is…
Life is a Gold's Gym of patience building. We have no idea what awaits us each day. We don't know how we'll be inconvenienced, who we will inconvenience, what traffic jam we'll be in, and what we won't have time to finish. It's walking with and waiting on God everyday that cultivates patience over time. Patience grows as we surrender our hearts daily to the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to act patiently toward others.
Perhaps the 9-month wait period before a birth is one of God's ways of preparing us for the task of parenting. Perhaps in the process of pregnancy and delivery God is growing patience in the parents—knowing that they'll need all the patience they can get. They'll need patience when they are awakened every two-hours for the next four-five months. They'll need patience to change diapers, handle tears, and discipline lovingly. Maybe the waiting is a part of it all. I believe it is.
As impatient as I remain, I am far more patient than I was before I became a parent. I used to hear the kid crying on the airplane and roll my eyes, thinking to myself, "Why can't they get their kid under control?" When I became that parent on the plane, shockingly, my attitude changed J. Now, I often feel sorry for the person whose child is crying, I remember those days that will revisit us soon…and it often makes me miss my own kids (if I'm away from them at the time). This is our third child and I'm thankful for how God has used parenting to shape us spiritually. Parents sometimes hit the rocks spiritually and maritally during the early childhood years. If they persevere, they also often find later that those years turned out to be some of the best for them spiritually. God grows patience in us during those years.
Now, I'm just praying He's willing to grow another crop of it in me J
Question: Which of the Fruit of the Spirit would you most like to see grown in your life?