Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Key to Patience

  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24

“Patience is a virtue.” We’re all familiar with that cliché, and many of us know that patience is listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as among the fruit of the Spirit. So there’s no disputing that the Christian ought to be patient. But as with most of the virtues, the biblical writers assume that we know what patience is and don’t give an explicit definition. But do we?

Why patience is a virtue? If we define it as “waiting without complaint,” patience might seem to be a morally insignificant trait. If no discomfort is involved, then are we really patient? Therefore to improve on that initial definition above, we might say that to be patient is to endure discomfort without complaint. This calls into play some other virtues, specifically, self-control, humility, and generosity. That is, patience is not a fundamental virtue so much as a complex of other virtues.

What are the different contexts in which patience is demonstrated? One way to distinguish types of patience is based upon the nature of the discomfort involved. The following threefold distinction can be made.

The first type is the patience needed when facing a nuisance of some kind. A person or a set of circumstances really irritates you, and you’d love to complain about it, but you hold your tongue, knowing that such a grievance would be petty or simply compound the problem.

A second type of patience is called for when facing boredom. Those who fall into a rut at work or at home often experience discomfort over the uneventful routine. To those who don’t struggle with boredom, it might seem absurd to suggest it can be a serious trial. But those who endure the plague of drab routine without complaint exhibit the virtue of patience.

A third type of patience is the most serious and significant. It is the patience required when one suffers in some way, either physically or psychologically. If you’re struggling with some disease or mental illness, then patience is required of you. Another example is when you find yourself out of a job. You put faith in God that he will provide, as He says he will. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” However, as time stretches on, you begin to wonder will God provide, if we have faith, He will, and that faith calls for patience. When we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and a job is almost in our grasp, we must be patient and know that God will provide. We must have faith and patience.

Does faith and patience mean that we must endure our trials without complaint? Jesus complained when his disciples lacked faith. And on the cross, Mark 15:33-34 tells us, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

Complaint to God is inappropriate only when its cause is insignificant. Major physical and psychological afflictions are significant, so patiently enduring them may actually involve complaint. Thus, complaining to God in prayer in such cases is not vicious but virtuous. It is a useful complaint to someone who is sovereign and therefore in control of whatever concerns us. The Psalms feature several examples of godly complaints, such as the following:

Why, O lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 10:1

Why do you hide your face

and forget our misery and oppression?

Psalm 44:24

I pour out my complaint before him;

before him I tell my trouble.

Psalm 142:2

And in one of the darkest of biblical passages, the psalmist declares,

From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death;

I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. 

Your wrath has swept over me;

your terrors have destroyed me. …

You have taken my companions and loved ones from me;

the darkness is my closest friend.

Psalm 88:15-18

This is, indeed, a complaint, but the severity of the suffering calls for it. Most importantly, God is the recipient of the complaint. So this is actually an act of faith on the part of the psalmist, affirming divine sovereignty even over his terrible pain.

This point suggests yet another way to categorize patience, one premised upon the biblical idea that God continually sustains the whole universe. God governs every occurrence in nature, so even “natural” events, as it turns out, have a personal explanation—namely God himself. This means that all patience or impatience is ultimately patience or impatience with someone.

The most challenging times of patience is the patience that is God-directed. In every Christian’s life there comes a time when one must wait upon God. Sometimes we must wait for a need to be met, such as finding a job. Other times we must wait for the satisfaction of a significant desire, like finding a job. At other times we wait for God to fulfill a promise, to comfort during a trial, or to give us assurance of our forgiveness for some sin. In these cases, we must be patient with God.

Why is patience toward God so difficult? The explanation boils down to, again, our tendency to see things only from our own point of view. Further reasons compound the difficulty of waiting upon God. For one thing, patience with God involves faith, and to exercise faith is to surrender final control of one’s life. To lack faith is to give in to one’s desire for control. So our patience with God will only be as strong as our ability to overcome this desire and surrender every aspect of our lives.

Most difficult of all, there’s no guarantee that God will, indeed, act to satisfy our desires. God always answers us when we pray, but sometimes the answer is no. Most situations that demand patience aren’t in regard to specific promises of God. Although he has told us he will meet all our needs, he hasn’t guaranteed that all of our desires, even significant ones, will be satisfied. Here, someone might note the biblical promise that if you “delight yourself in the Lord … he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). This, however, is not a promise that all of our present desires will be fulfilled the way we want them to be. Sometimes they are, but often God keeps this promise by adjusting our desires to bring them into line with his will. If this is disappointing, keep in mind that even if God does change our desires, they are still our sincere desires.

So patience is a virtue, a difficult but important one for the Christian. While every day our patience is tested and, we can hope, increased, we must be mindful of our faith and how God is at work in our difficulties, even in tiny annoyances, to make us more like Jesus. But as Peter says, we must “prepare [our] minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13). We must be intentional about increasing our patience, perhaps even by using mental exercises, but definitely by practicing the spiritual disciplines. Let us focus ever more clearly on the example of Christ in order to imitate him in all things, large and small. 


Moment of Zen: Beautiful Views

   
 
While I only got to see the mountains from a distance as we drove through them this week for my interview, I look forward to exploring the trails and hiking some next summer if I get this job. The mountains up there remind me a lot of the mountains in North Alabama, except that the people are far nicer and more liberal.


Prospects 

  
I’m glad to be home, but only because I hate the flying. I would truly love to live in this area that I visited. The scenery is spectacular. I would say that 90 percent of the men under 50 range from good looking to stunningly handsome. The guys at the university, where the museum is located, are all stunning and very fit. I believe it when they say that this is the healthiest state in the country. Oh yeah, and the landscape is beyond gorgeous: mountains and streams and lakes everywhere. While everyone tells me that the winters are brutal, everyone also said that the beauty of the autumn there makes the winters worth it.

Everyone I met, from people at the university to strangers in the various towns they took me to visit, were extremely nice. Honestly, there were only three main differences I saw between this place and the South: we have six months of summer, they have six months of winter; very few big box stores or fast food places (I never saw a fast food place, but was told there was a McDonald’s somewhere nearby); and the politics are the polar opposite of Alabama. The winters worry me, but unlike some southerners, it doesn’t frighten me away. The other two things, I find to be wonderfully attractive.

While I know they are still interviewing people, each of the people at the museum told me separately how much they like me and enjoyed their time with me and that they would love to see me become an addition to the team. I was told that the subject of my master’s degree really set me apart from the other candidates. No one knows what the director is thinking (she likes to appear neutral through the process), and she will ultimately be the one to decide, but it appears that she likes me as well. I had two long conversations with her and both went very well.

While everything sound and looks good, nobody really knows what will happen in the next week. There may be an exceptional candidate who has skills that shine more than mine do; however, they know that with me they will get a two for one deal. Not only can I perform the major task of the job, but my particular background in history (among other expertise) will be useful in the museum itself.


On My Way Home

  
I received nothing but good feedback from the group who interviewed me. They will not make a decision though until next week. They have two more interviews, but I’ve been told by several that they really like me and were very impressed with my credentials. They continued to spend most of the time trying to convince me that I want the job. I’m already convinced. I was trying to convince them to hire me. So I hope I did convince them that they want me, and I want to be there.

If it is in the morning when you read this, I am probably in an airplane flying home. I hope it’s an airplane more sturdy than the paper airplanes in the picture.


Exhausted but Good 

  
I was very tired as I wrote this last night. It had been a whirlwind day. I had been put up the night before at a hotel near the airport and brought down to the museum/campus in the morning. I was given a tour of the museum and the campus and then lunch. After the lunch was the formal interview, though I wouldn’t call it too formal. The people at the museum are very informal, and it makes for a relaxing atmosphere. After the interview, I was given a tour of the surrounding area. I really love this area. It’s very funky cool (that’s the only way I can describe it). After touring a few places, we met for dinner, which was excellent. The president of the museum board had dinner with us and I can’t say this enough, everyone was so nice and relaxed. There was a lot of laughing and friendliness. Then I came back to the bed and breakfast that I’m staying in so I could relax. I will go to the museum this morning after breakfast, but I’m not sure what today’s agenda will be. I was only told that we’d work out some of the details. I’m really hoping that they can tell me today whether or not I’m hired, though they may wait until I am home for that. I think though that today will probably be an easy day.


The Stripling

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The Stripling
Dante Micheaux

1 Samuel 17:56

The field soldiers remember the triumph,
a lithe boy’s naal on the head of giant,
before the king rode through the ranks
to inquire about his parentage or the prince
had him bathed, his hair scented with sweet herbs.

After the crowds dwindled, because neither
one’s cunning nor the adulation of the victorious
are nourishment, and the battle, having made him
hungry, alone and in silence, the boy
slowly ate the brain of the giant.

A stripling, to tell the truth, the boy grew—
mad with the taste—savored the giant brain
and learned its ways, became a giant,
begat giants, who craved and ate all
the people in the land, except their own.

 

About This Poem

“‘The Stripling’ is the marriage of a thematic obsession with beautiful boys (in this case, the youthful, ruddy and handsome David) and history’s tendency to perpetually recast the underdog and the favorite in its oldest stories.”
Dante Micheaux

Dante Micheaux is the author of Amorous Shepherd (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010). He is completing a study on literary influence and sexuality. He lives in London.


I Arrived 

  
I survived the flights up here. I hate to fly. My first flight was rough, but then I took more Xanax an made the second one ok. I’ll be shown around in the morning, then interview in the afternoon. Off to bed. Goodnight all.


Flying Out

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Time got away from me yesterday because I was packing and making sure I had everything I would need for the next few days. I pray that I have packed everything. While the guys above look very sexy, I made sure that I packed pants socks and shoes as well. Well, actually I packed two suits and then two casual outfits, just not as casual as the ones above.

I’m nervous, but that’s to be expected. I’m hoping that all goes well and that I didn’t forget anything. I’ll fly out this afternoon and arrive sometime tomorrow night, then be driven down to the hotel near the college. I’m not exactly sure what to expect Tuesday and Wednesday, except that I will be spending that time with the museum staff.

I’m scheduling today’s post and I will schedule tomorrow’s. I will try to post on Wednesday and Thursday if time permits, though I suspect they will be short posts. Wish me luck and please continue to pray. Thank you all for your love, support, and advice. I have the best group of readers out there.


Deo Volente

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Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
—Proverbs 27:1

Deo volente was often used in conjunction with a signature at the end of letters and was used in order to signify that “God willing” this letter will get to you safely and/or “God willing” the contents of this letter come true. As an abbreviation (simply “D.V.”) it is often found in personal letters (in English) of the early 1900s, employed to generally and piously qualify a given statement about a future planned action, that it will be carried out, so long as God wills. It was used because James 4:13-15 seems to suggest this way of speaking:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” —James 4:13-15

There is so much depth to James 4:13-17 to remind us of just what God wills. In the big picture, do we include God in all of our plans? Do we include Him in our career or educational plans? Do we pray about the path He wants us to take? When we make plans and exclude God, no matter what the plans are, it is as if we are boasting in our own abilities.

James chapter 4, verses 13 and 14 refer to making future plans for prosperity without consulting God. Even if the plans are honorable and righteous, God may have other ideas. Our lives are but a blink of God’s eye, “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” God wants us to consult with Him for all plans.

I plan ahead. If I do not have the next step or two thought out before I get to them, I feel behind and unorganized. However, God does not work this way. Ever since I gave Him full rights to my life, I cannot seem to plan anything too far in advance. He is the ultimate schedule shifter. James notes, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” I have to remind myself of this. Life throws sudden changes at you. Yes, I still plan ahead to the best of my ability, but I now make flexible plans instead of rigid ones. This is one way I submit my life to God, by giving Him free reign to jumble my schedule. In the end, I trust God has a better idea of what I should do with my life than I do since He sees the entire picture.

I remind myself that God has a plan for me in my prayers. I begin by asking God to forgive me of my sins, then I ask Him to guide me down the path He has chosen for me before asking Him to bless my family and friends. I pray for guidance down the path God has chosen for me, because I know it is not an easy path. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I’ve learned to use verse 15 in all planning. “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” There is so much each of us wants to do with what time we have left in our lives, right? Personally, I want to get a good job, travel to Europe again, write a book, get in better shape, and be healthier. With each thing I want do to, I pray about it and say, “Lord, if it is Your will that I do this, then I will do it.”

Psalm 37:4 states: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is a Scripture of hope. We think, “I love the Lord and so He will give me whatever my heart desires.” That sounds great and all, but what about this: if we love the Lord and become very close and intimate with Him, very soon His desires become the desire of our hearts. Ask the Lord if your desire is His will and you may find that His will truly becomes your desire.

Tomorrow, I am supposed to travel for a job interview. “If the Lord wishes” has been something that has run through my mind a lot the last few weeks. Whether I get this job or not, I know that it is God’s will. Sometimes our ambitions can rob us. We can become so enmeshed with what tomorrow can bring that we don’t fully engage with what is in front of us today. But the Bible tells us that our current actions are important to God. The things that you pay attention to now will have great impact upon your tomorrow, so don’t daydream about what could happen—be fully present with what you are doing today. I have been trying to do that as I prepare for this interview and trip. I know that I just do my part, but the outcome will be the Will of God.


Moment of Zen: Sleeping In 

  
If all goes well this next week, today may be my last day to sleep in.