"The Lord became impatient over the misery of Israel." - Judges 10:16
Would you say you are a patient person? Here's a little quiz to find out:
- Do you struggle with people who drive slowly?
- Are you compelled to help others finish their sentences?
- Do you often worry about "getting it all done"?
- When events start late, are you grateful for a little extra downtime or are you resentful?
- Do you find quizzes like this a complete waste of time?
- Are you a modern American?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above, you might have a problem with patience.
Does that make impatience a sin, yet another demerit on our spiritual report card? Not necessarily. Impatience is not bad, but it is often misplaced. Impatience is a good thing when we are impatient for the world God has in mind.
It's right to practice patience with traffic or the long line at the grocery store but when people are hungry and thirsty for justice and equality (or just plain hungry), it is NOT appropriate to say, "Wait, be patient, hold your horses, no need to rush things." There is such a thing as holy impatience.
When we are told a rising economic tide lifts all boats when it has mostly lifted all the yachts and does little for the one billion people on leaking life rafts being pulled under by poverty, we have something to be impatient about. When seven children are shot dead every day in our country, that's something to be impatient about. When racism, sexism and other isms hold God's children back from full participation in society, we ought to be impatient about that. When most young people see church as boring, bigoted and backwards, let's be impatient about that too.
Again and again, scripture calls us to be impatient for a world where people sit under their own vine and fig tree and live in peace and unafraid; where swords are beat into plows, guns are turned into shovels, tanks into tractors; where we spend more on addressing hunger, health and education than on defense.
We all need to develop more patience for the small stuff and a holy impatience for the big stuff.
What are you waiting for?
God, grant me patience with others just as you are patient with me. And bless me with a holy urgency for the just and peaceable world you have in mind for all. Amen.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.