A few years ago, as I cast about for a writing project that was less, well…ridiculously intense & personal than spilling my soul in a memoir, I started a series of essays about the Fruit of the Spirit – the benefits package the Bible promises to anyone who opts in to Jesus’ offer of a better life. We’re told that somehow, miraculously/mysteriously, Jesus’ people have access to unprecedented levels of nine specific things: Peace, Love, Joy, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control.
I’ve always loved this list because it’s so precise. I mean, I know whether or not I’m feeling Joy. And when I respond to a frustrating situation in a way that’s Gentle instead of furious, it’s just astonishing; there’s no way NOT to notice. I appreciate how Jesus doesn’t try to dazzle us with vague promises. Instead, we’re given a litmus test we can use anytime to see if we’re wringing all the pluses from our Holy Spirit benefits package.
Reading through these essays yesterday was fun. It reminded me of interesting thoughts I’d had about Love, and how great it is to feel Peace when on earthly terms I should be freaking out. I cruised through these pages, wondering why I’d never finished this project when I was clearly in such a groove.
Then I flipped the page and dead-ended at this:
I laughed so hard, water came out of my nose. Nothing to say on that subject. Not one word.
Patience has never been my thing. I don’t even WANT it. Patience means waiting, and I don’t like that, so where do I go to turn in this weird & annoying fruit and sign up for double Joy instead?
I never recovered from the Patience page. The essays stop there, almost suggesting (obnoxiously, I think) that God insisted that I process SOME thoughts on this subject before He’ll let me move forward. (Honestly, if this were a Harry Potter movie, I’d still be sitting there in some Hidden Tunnel of Doom, stomping my foot and refusing to wait for the secret key to descend from the ceiling, completely ignoring the reality that even as I refused to wait, there I was… waiting).
Maybe patience sometimes takes the form of forgetting all about that thing you’re waiting for. Obliviousness is a grace, I believe. And while I might not use this example as a particularly enticing Fruit of the Spirit (“You’ll lose sight of your work projects for YEARS at a time!!!”) I can admit a certain gratitude that I haven’t spent the past however many months trudging around the world trying to muster up a bunch of bullsh*t concepts about Patience in order to fill a page and move on. I appreciate that Jesus doesn’t traffic in bullsh*t concepts.
Ironically (only not), I’m far more patient than I used to be. Here’s what patience looks like for me now:
-Taking a part time job in the flooring department at Home Depot last winter when I could not read one more adoption book (seriously, I’d read them all) while we waited for our adoption home study to be approved. Patience = Getting out of the house.
-Stopping writing mid-paragraph when THIS DOG rouses from her 5 hour nap and makes it clear that she needs to go out immediately. Patience = Knowing that bathroom needs always come first.
-Dinner: Every. Single. Night. Patience = Keeping a schedule that helps your kids learn to trust you.
It makes for a mighty strange essay. And maybe God knows I have EVEN LESS to say about Kindness, and is protecting me from myself at this point. But I’m grateful to realize that, just as promised, this Patience thing just grew inside of me when I wasn’t even paying attention. It’s cool to have fruit you didn’t cultivate.