Love is Patient

Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry!

How many of you in here like group projects?

When I was studying pre physical therapy at Baylor University, my final project my senior year was to work with a group to take a movement in a sport and break it down.  My group was assigned the long jump.  We had to think about and describe every movement and every muscle that was used to help the athlete perform this action.  Thankfully, we only had to describe 3 running motions!!! 

Well, my group felt inspired and had great energy to get this project started.  In most groups that I am in, I become the person who organizes the project into tasks, asks who wants what task, and then follows up with the person to make sure that we are making good progress.  I even offered to be the person that everyone would email all the parts to so that I could put it all together in a pretty and spell-checked way.  All that I asked was that my group did not email me too close to the due date.  I thought it was reasonable to ask for a good length of time so that I could complete the project and turn it in with time to spare. 

So, everyone turned in great work and in a timely fashion and we all lived happily ever after.  Nope.  Over the weeks that we had to complete our individual tasks, the group met less and less and they responded to my check ins less and less.  A few days before it was due, I became impatient because I had not received any of the assignment nor did I receive any communication.  The day the report is due, I finally receive all the pieces and then my computer crashes.  So, I had to run up to the computer lab to get help in retrieving my document and submitting it to the professor.  Not kidding. I submitted the document right before the time it was due. 

When I saw my group in class the next day, I could not even look them in the face.  I was frustrated because I was clear about our goal and they blew right past it without communicating.  I was angry at myself for taking on the role of putting the entire document together.  This experience still sits inside me to this day and I work really hard to shift my internal state of being when I approach collaborative projects.

Our people, the people in our communities that we may or may not know yet, are crying out to find ways to shift their internal state of being away from mirroring the fear, anger, and anxiety that is present all around us. They want to experience patience in their relationship with themselves and others. If people are hungry for spiritual practices that change and internal state of being and if our bodies are this amazing instrument that God gave us to tune to God’s frequency which is love, joy, peace, patience, etc. then we as the church must reimagine a way to engage the body in our spiritual practices. 

Jesus talked about it like this…he said I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will bear much fruit. As Christians, Jesus calls us to experience being one with the The Divine and the natural result of this oneness is that we bear fruit.  The fruit that we are talking about comes from Galatians 5:22 where Paul writes, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; ”

We are in a new sermon series titled, “Your brain on fruit: Any Questions?” It is so amazing that we live in a day and time where new discoveries in neuroscience help us understand that our heart, mind, and body are profoundly affected when they are flooded with the fruit of the spirit. The transformation we experience when we embody the fruit of the spirit inspires me to share The Good News Jesus came to preach!

Our reading today came from Hebrews 6: 11-12 so let’s understand a little of the context of this letter.

The author of the book of Hebrews was writing to a group of Jewish Christians and gentile Christians who were experiencing persecution and suffering.  The letter suggests that some people during this time of suffering have fallen away from the faith so the author is hoping to persuade them that following Jesus is worth it because Jesus is the son of God.

So, let’s return to the text…The writer to this community says, “And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance.”

In this part of the verse, I hear the writer talking about that there is a goal in mind and that he is encouraging the people to continue on this path so that they might reach the goal. The goal as I understand it in the book of Hebrews is to become partners with Christ in this world and their reward will be to be called the family of Jesus.  

 It’s hard to continue taking steps towards your goal and helpful when someone comes along to encourage you saying it’s all going to be worth it in the end. Part of the encouragement in this time of having a goal but waiting for the fulfillment of the goal is that we must be patient with ourselves and each other. You can think about this with our discernment process.  For some of you waiting 10 weeks to make a decision about our future is too long. You feel impatient to get the ball rolling. For others of you, you wish that we could postpone the decision making until Jesus comes back! You feel impatient towards those of us who would plan to take a vote in December. The reality is that we need a goal to aim towards and our elders have asked that we have an end date so that this process does not exhaust everyone. Now we must be patient with the process so that we can care for each other along the way.

Did you know that our brain needs us to set goals?  We need to set smart goals in order to function at our best. Goal setting or I like how one website said replace goal setting with hobby (something fun that you want to learn) helps rewire our brain so that we build up a sense of resiliency.  But Goal setting and anticipating progress, triggers the brain’s dopamine/reward system. Dopamine is what motivated you to get out of bed this morning and come to church.  You just thought it was the smell of coffee that motivated you to get up! Nope, it’s dopamine! So, the process of working towards a smart goal and feeling a sense of accomplishment along the way wires you to feel better about yourself and more optimistic which helps you be more resilient when you are facing challenges or adversity.

In setting a SMART goal, you begin with the goal.  For us that is to make a decision regarding our future. Then, you state what specific action you will take to meet this goal.  In our discernment process, we are going to go through a curriculum that addresses our situation from many different angles.  Next the progress must be measurable.  Well, we know that our study includes 8 sessions, 2 weeks for prayer, and then a vote.  We also know that we are going to be calling people, sending letters or text messages to make sure people know to be present for these 8 sessions.  Then, we think, “Is this Achievable?” What the A of smart goals is asking us is to think about who is going to hold us accountable and how will we persevere in the face of challenge.  I can tell you that our elders will hold us accountable, but that each of you must ask yourself what you need to persevere through the challenging times. For me it is trusting that God is with us and will guide us. The R of smart goals refers to how we can make this time relevant and not just feel like extra work.  Well, I have planned all kinds of activities so that you will not be board and that you might even feel energized at the end of each session.  Lastly SMART goals are time bound and ask us to celebrate.  We are time bound in that we will take our vote after we complete the process and we are ending in Advent so that we can celebrate the birth of Jesus and the birth of a new direction for our church!

The writer of Hebrews 6 continues, “And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end so that you may not become sluggish.””

What stood out to me as we read the rest of the passage is that Patience & hope are connected.

We just talked about how when we set goals we feel a sense of purpose and a sense of agency.  These are aspects of hope!  For the people in the book of Hebrews, their hope was in being a part of God’s family on the final day. This hope is what gave them purpose and what the author was trying to strengthen.  Maybe they just needed to break that goal down into smaller steps so that they could feel a sense of accomplishment, a rush of dopamine that would motivate them to take the next right step and keep them patient because their goal was long and the reward far off. This would also give them the strength to live in a time of adversity.

Paul says it like this in the letter to the Romans 8:25 “…  if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

In your spiritual life, what do you hope for?  What are you patiently waiting for? What is a spiritual goal that you would like to direct your attention to over the next month? Year?

Well there is a prayer that you can pray everyday to help you tune into what you are needing and how you can sense God’s presence in your life.

I want to introduce you to the The Prayer of Examen. It is a prayer form developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) as part of his work on “spiritual exercises.”  There are 5 points to this prayer.

Now, lets add the last piece to our verses, “And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Our verse concludes by asking us to be imitators and who best to imitate than God.

Do you ever stop to think about how patient God is with you and me?  I can go along and be impatient with others which starts to feel like I am better than all of you poor creatures.  But whenever I examine my day and think about all the times God was patient with me, I feel a sense of humility wash over me and I recognize my shortcomings, confess the ways in which I know I have fallen short, and acknowledge that I am still learning and that God’s love will never leave me.  If we can see how God is patient with us, then we can imitate God and be patient with others. When we forgive others their debts as we are forgiven by God, that is having patience with others. Because not matter how much we love one another, we will grow weary unless our love is patient.

For the past 18 months, I have been involved in another group project.  This project grew from my friend teaching me a meditation practice rooted in the Buddhist tradition that I translated into words accessible for Christians, Then the project grew to include teaching the practice to a larger group of 35 participants, 9 of which were Christian practitioners. Now we are writing an ebook about our experience.  Well, I had the brilliant idea to start a podcast that I could slow release when we know that our ebook will be published.  So, I outlined 8 episodes with bullet points for what we were going to talk about and I asked friends what platforms we should use. 

We had set up Tuesday morning for our first attempt at creating a podcast.  Well, tropical storm Nicolas that elevated to a category 1 hurricane threatened that plan and I had let my friend know what was happening.  I had also not received any information about what platforms to use and so Tuesday morning came and I was exhausted from being up a good portion of the night, my children were home, so my morning was all upside down.  I told my friend that if we pushed it to 1pm then I would be ready, but she could not meet at 1pm. She did not say it but she was clearly frustrated at me and let me know that she was not available at any of the times that I offered for the rest of the week.

So in order to feel helpful, I worked late into the night on pruning our manuscript, but after the day I had instead of feeling good about this progress, I was angry at myself for demanding that I do more when I was already exhausted.  So, I went to bed and slept poorly because I was mad at my friend for being mad at me and mad at myself.  Well, we finally found a time to try and record our first podcast.  We both logged on and my friend acted like she did not know what the point of our first session was.  I was already frustrated from Tuesday so when she said this to me, I felt like I was going to explode inside.  I told her that I was frustrated because I outlined it and wrote it in story form and she has had the material for a week to look at and ask questions. She recognize my frustration which helped me regain my higher functioning brain and I slowed down my hurry to get the podcast done so that I could meet her need to talk through the flow of the podcast until she was ready to begin.  Then, we stopped and started multiple times because of technical issues with our phones, ear buds, and internet connections.  It was a rough start but I felt that patience was the key to navigating the challenges of this week.

Group work is hard, my friends. Working with humans is hard. It requires patience with ourselves and with each other. 

Egyptian Christian scholar, lawyer and teacher Adel Bestavros summarizes Paul’s words about patience.  He calls them the 3 truths.  He writesPatience with others is Love,
Patience with self is Hope,

Patience with God is Faith.      

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