Wednesday, February 2, 2011

God's Patience and Ours

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Last week we could have just as well entitled the homily God’s forgiveness and ours because one of the main things we concentrated on was the relationship between our being forgiven by God and the way in which growing in our experience of God’s forgiveness enlarges our capacity to forgive others and our desire to forgive others. I also invited us to think about the way in which forgiveness is important in a foundational sense to our growth in other spiritual disciplines. This week we looked at God’s patience and ours, noting that as we learn to recognize God’s patience with us we can be more patient with ourselves and with others. I also suggested that learning to be patient with oneself can be one of the most important things one can do for those one loves and cares for because the one who is learning to patient with herself can more easily be patient with others.

Henri Nouwen talks about patience in this way:
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patience” means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb.”

Part of what I think is suggested or, at least presupposed, in what Nouwen is saying is that the goal, as we walk with God in this world, is to be headed in the right direction. Each moment of our life is open to God’s love, wisdom, and forgiveness; living honestly with the truth of who God is and the truth of who we are in those moments keeps us on the path. We never imagine we have arrived in this life but find God’s presence to be a faithful companion on a long journey. On the journey patience manifests itself as we confess in any given moment that there is something hidden going on, that God’s work will indeed endure in our life and the life of our world. This is what we do each week in the sacrament of communion; in that holy moment we confess the hidden reality of God’s work in our life and we remind each other that the path we are on is the path of life, of human flourishing.

Growing in patience by learning to see each moment of our life in God’s presence helps us over time to be able to sit with the messes in our life instead of fleeing to ephemeral pleasures designed to distract us from the messy reality of what is going on in our lives. Also, growing in patience helps us to remain present and engaged with those around us instead of demanding they be “put together” in the way we imagine, hypocritically, that they ought to be.

Questions for discussion:
1.If you were trying to put the Nouwen quote in your own words and explain it to someone what would you say?
2. What is the difference between being patient with yourself and being too "easy on yourself?"
3. What does it look like to be willing to suffer with the brokenness in yourself and others in a patient way?

No comments:

Post a Comment