Saturday, November 6, 2010

To Pray or Not to Pray, for Patience? :: Unlock the Bible {7}

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)

As a kid I learned this adage:
Never pray for patience, because God will just put you in lots of situations where you have to practice patience.

Does that sound familiar? Being an ace student, I thought to myself, "I'm a generally patient person, so I will just work on this one myself. No worries, God, you don't need to test me on patience, I'll just start out as your star pupil."

So in my life I have never, EVER, prayed for patience. Not once, because I know better. Who wants to set herself up for guaranteed testing?

Now I have kids. Three of them. One has been around almost nine years. And can I tell you what they will never, EVER, say about me when they grow up and reflect on their childhood?

My mom was always so patient with me.

Oh, I struggle with patience with those kids. They drive me to the moon--and back--pretty much day in and day out. 

Shortly after this moment, I turned around to find
every key popped off the keyboard
and laying around on the floor
like so many pieces of a puzzle.

Recently I had a stunning revelation: God already puts me in lots of situations where I have to practice patience. Like seven hundred and twenty-nine times a day. Those kids drive me crazy so much, sometimes they're already on the next iteration before I even finish being impatient with the first one.

Patience may be a virtue, but I think the time has come for me to admit it is not my virtue. Not even close.

So it's time to call in The Big Gun and beseech him for a little patience.

This is not "The Big Gun".
This is my boy, who stole my free Fruitista from Taco Bell.
I thought it was funny, until he drank the whole thing.

It's also time for a little Word Study. To start looking for Scripture that will help plant seeds of patience in my brain, I turn to my very first Bible. This KJV edition, printed specially for school students in an A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education) program, features the words of Christ in red; large print that substitutes a pronunciation guide for all those difficult Old Testament names; and a list in the front, of 60 character attributes with a Bible Memory verse for each.

The first verse I ever learned about patience:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1 KJV).

While I know this applies to the spiritual life, it's pretty clear to me that for right now, raising children is the race that is set before me. From me they have their first look at God, both in the training I give them and in the example I set. 

I look the verse up in a few other versions. The New International Version translates it:

". . . let us run with perseverance . . ."

while the New American Standard, English Standard, and New Living Translation all put it this way:

". . . let us run with endurance . . ."

So, patience equates with perseverance and endurance. Neither of which particularly appeals to me, but I am at the end of my rope looking for change. I've got at least 17 years of active parenting left, I might as well learn something while I'm in this stage.

She's at a dangerous age.
I didn't photograph her standing on top of the piano
by those stuffed animals
later that day.
And that's all I can say about that.

I look up "patience" in my Strong's Bible Concordance, which turns out to be word #5281 in the Greek, hupomone (hoop-om-on-ay'):
cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy:--enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).
So now I don't just need to make it through, but there is a cheerful attitude attached to it?!? That's just great.

But wait. Suddenly I see one of my favorite words: hopeful. 

Hopeful endurance. Sticking with the kids, loving them through their only-human failings, thinking of parenting as a marathon. . . all with the hope that eventually they will get it, and that God has his influence already locked on their life. They are lovable buggers, and I really do enjoy them a lot of the time.

Do I even need to caption this one?

I don't have endurance. I have zero interest in ever running a marathon. I have a hard time hosting small group at my house for an entire semester. And this is actually the first time in twenty five years that I have lived three years in a place and not had plans to be moving on soon. But I digress . . .

I do know the very next verse in Hebrews 12 continues:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. . .

Jesus completes my faith. He endured the cross (very difficult); he can also help me endure the race set before me (small potatoes). 

When Jesus returned to Heaven, we were left with the Holy Spirit to work inside us and give us strength to change and grow. As a result of allowing the Spirit to work, we can expect to have these qualities in increasing amounts: love, joy, peace, and the like--including patience.

I don't know why I never realized the fallacy of that old adage, because none of us has any patience to begin with; all we have comes from God. If I ask him for more, perhaps he won't only put me in situations requiring it. Perhaps he might also pour into my spirit the hope I need to endure each day.

When they start laughing and rolling on the floor like this,
it's time to watch out. I have a saying for such times:
"This can only end in tears."
And on this night, it absolutely did, about a minute later.

Dear Father, I feel a little sheepish to have reached such a late time in my life to first come to you requesting patience. But I am a dry creekbed needing some rain in this area. Please pour your patience into me, and check my heart every time I am about to demonstrate impatience. Teach me how to put aside my own agenda and just sit with my kids, listening and operating on their time.

Thank you for gently revealing to me my need for growth in this area. Please be faithful to continue your work in me until I am complete. Amen.


  1. I so related to this: "sometimes they're already on the next iteration before I even finish being impatient with the first one." I didn't know this was contagious. I loved, loved this post and oh how I need it too.

  2. Hi Krista! Stopping by from your comment at Writer's Manna. I'll be following you now :)

    I know what you mean about patience being tested... :)

    Maybe it's how the Holy Spirit works, but I keep seeing / reading / hearing over and over from different sources that indepth Bible study is so important. ... guess I should take the hint and go there already. ... ironically, it would require alot of patience (for me) Go figure ;)

    Great to meet you Krista!

  3. Thanks Kim! I struggle with reading enough too. But you will be blessed by it. Looking forward to getting to know you better.

  4. Oh patience...
    Love that you looked at the greek!

    "none of us has any patience to begin with; all we have comes from God. If I ask him for more, perhaps he won't only put me in situations requiring it. Perhaps he might also pour into my spirit the hope I need to endure each day."

    Great perspective.

    I just did a similar post, looking at another greek work that translates into patience:


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