My wait problem
Like many Americans I have a wait problem. It's visible throughout the day in the expressions and motions of time anxiety. Most of us can roll our eyes, tap our fingers, look at our watches every second, and sigh with automatic precision. My most repeated prayer is " Lord, teach me what it means to be patient."
So, years ago I did the word study on patience and learned a thing or two. In the New Testament two words are usually translated "patience."
hupomone | a noun compound from "hupo" (under) and "mone" (abide). So,
hupomone means to abide under, implying to remain under something. In the
NT it is usually descriptive of patience learned under trial, as in James 1:3,
where the HCSB renders "endurance" and the ESV translates "steadfastness".
The same word is translated "patience" in HCSB and ESV versions of Romans
Note: this patience is learned in hardship and suffering.
macrothumia | a noun compound from "macro" (long) and "thumia" (temper).
It means to have a long temper, as compared to having a short temper. This is
the patience of spiritual fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).
Note: this patience should grow naturally as a fruit of the spirit.
A few years ago I spent some time in the hospital after cancer surgery. Before I went to the hospital Harriet told me to be a good patient. After surgery one of the nurses told me I was her patient and that she would care for me. The surgeon told me several times he was going to make some notes in my patient chart. A patient care coordinator came by my room several times that week. When it came time to be discharged seven days later a patient escort delivered me to my waiting family and car. Everywhere I turned they were referring to me as a patient. That's when I learned what it means to be a patient.
Interestingly enough, the Greek word "macrothumia" was most often translated "long suffering" in the King James Bible. Although the etymology of patient is from Latin (patiens, suffering) and Greek (paskein, to suffer), the word "macrothumia" was usually rendered "long suffering" and is annotated to the idea of being patient.
Nice, huh? But, here's the deal. If I am impatient, it means just two things:
1. I am not learning from my life circumstances, where "hupomone" is learned.
2. Patience isn't growing on my spiritual tree as a fruit of the spirit.
My wait problem is a spiritual issue. Well, yes, personality, temperament, background, habits, biases, and other distinctions play into our response to the world around us. And, yes, we are fallen humans after all. The question "how long?" is hard wired into us, evidenced by biblical heroes like David (Psalm 13:1, 74:9), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:11), and many other more implicit references. Still, when I reduce all the blame game mechanics to a single point my impatience is real and visible because something is lacking in my personal spiritual life.
There are many passages that extol the spiritual virtue of patience. Three Scriptures have been blessings as I've struggled with this wait problem even in retirement.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
Point: patience ought to grow in me naturally.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation...
2 Peter 3:15, ESV
Point: Jesus is our example of patience.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the
name of the Lord.
James 5:10, ESV
Point: God gave us the prophets as further examples.
This is another hard one for moderns, including many spiritual leaders. We seem to be so often caught between two polarities----a systemic tendency for slow reaction, and a just as dangerous impulse to move ahead of God. They are both wait problems, waiting too long, and not waiting long enough. And, then, there is the long suffering thing, what he was trying to teach me when I was a patient in the hospital. Usually I want whatever is ailing me---or the church, or the world around me, or the people in my path, or that problem over there, or whatever---to be fixed like right now.
Once again, practical James advises, "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the previous fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
James 5:7-8, ESV
There it is. He said, "Establish your hearts...". You see, my wait problem is a heart problem. It's not about too much to do, crowded schedules, another sign of the times. My wait problem is about my times and my heart.
You know, long suffering.