"Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing make you afraid;
All things pass;
But God is unchanging;
is enough for everything
you who have God lack nothing.
God alone is sufficient"

Teresa of Avila

I love history. This is a poem written in Spain, by Teresa, in the 1500's. Isn't it amazing how the plight of humanity varies in context but not in content.

Patience is a word for which I have no affection. We have never had a love affair, and I fear, we will never enter marriage. She is a rude word, that seeks to slow my soul from the pilgrim passion that drives my cumbersome quests. She stutters and stumbles me, when what I long for, is the fluidity of the autobahn - courage, speed, skill, finesse.

"Our greatest obstacle," Teresa wrote later, "was that we had parents". It is so agreeable to blame parents, that is, until we become "them things" ourselves.

My father is of Dutch/ German descent. In his painful perfectionism, time was a measure of honor and respect. To be late was a huge act of disrespect. So I grew up with the watch being a foe not friend. In fact the first time I was to take Meryl on a date, I remember the night clearly. It was a Thursday night. I was to fetch her at 7:00pm. So I stole a rose from a neighbors yard (hey no judgment here. I was a student so I let romance dictate my ethics - anyway she only found out years later, after I had married her. I actually found a great route to her house, passing all the homes with much romance in these bones of mine.)

I remember standing outside her parents front door waiting for the second hand to strike the hour. At exactly 7 o'clock, I knocked on the door and 40 years have slipped by together, in rich fragrance.

You see dear reader, patience is faith's travel companion. Doesn't the writer of Hebrews teach us: "It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises"? (Heb 6:12)

Without patience we live in the endless repeat of Pocahontas, "just around the river bend". Our lives forever hanker around what is to come rather than what is, finding no true meaning and pleasure in the moment. Why? Maybe because our soul drives us to want all now, not able to trust the Father fully for then.

"Patience, as Nouwen, McNeill and Morrison explain, can be understood as a third way between the polar extremes of fight and flight. In patience, we learn to abide in each moment, finding it not empty but rather full of the grace of God." Christopher Smith & John Pattison; "Slow Church"

In our culture of instant gratification, we find the possibility that a promise, a word, a calling, may only be fulfilled in a decade or two or three, reprehensible. Our dastardly measure of success is simply fueled by the "now". This slave master is torturous. He will whip our bended backs with endless insatiable demands. We in turn, are so vulnerable, to our need to be successful and the perception of others that we are successful, that we surrender to this life of Egypt revisited. We are too fearful to get off this soul destroying treadmill.

My favorite artist, by far, is Vincent Van Gogh. His soul was punctured by the pain and plight of the poor people of the day. He was called from the frontline of pastoral ministry, in a very despairing coal mining region, but because of his unconventional methods among these broken workers (his charcoal sketch of "Worn out" says it all). Whilst I would love to write about this tragedy, let it be sufficient to say, he died way too early, at 37. He never saw how he would change the way we view art and life, by his courage, bold colors and brush strokes.

I wonder, would we be OK with the Father, if he chooses which chapter of our life, we will be most effective? What if he chooses our greatest impact to be when we are old and frail like Mother Theresa, or old and seemingly forgotten like Churchill or frail and broken like Joni Eareckson Tada or dead and gone like Van Gogh? I am not suggesting God authors all these moments, but he may choose to make them the moment of greatest impact. Can we fully trust him till the end?

Patience, faith and grace flow together. They reflect our rhythms of trust, believing that

"But God is unchanging;
is enough for everything
you who have God lack nothing.
God alone is sufficient"

I am not truly sure I know what it means to say "God alone is sufficient". I am not sure I know what it means to thrust oneself fully on the Father no matter what the narrative may look like right now. But this I do know - He is trustworthy. The Father's rhythms of time and seasons are so different from our own. Having walked with Jesus for 40 years now, having led three churches and been part of 2 movements, this I do know - He is Faithful and True. Rarely does the story unfold like I thought it would. But, when I come out the other side, the sun is brighter, the landscape is more beautiful and the grace tasted sweeter than honey. Impatience has proven to be the folly of my mannish quest to control the narrative and my lack of full surrender to His divine timing.

Yet, when He does act - it is beautiful, majestic, timely, more compelling than I could have imagined. Maybe that is what it means that "God alone is sufficient".


Popular Posts