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Friday, June 13, 2014

Patience of God

I stared at the lawn mower, breathing heavily.  A single bead of sweat rolled down my face and in my current state of frustration even the gentle tickle across my cheek drove me to new levels of fury.  I picked up the small reel mower over my head and paused, muscles tensed, my face the pure picture of barbarian anger that is entirely unique to modern man’s experience with difficult technology.
Pictured: Me, with barbarian fury.
I was going to make this mower pay dearly for what it had done to me.

With a (imaginary) battle cry, I hurled the mower across the yard, picturing vividly a scene of masochistic dominance over the (inanimate object) enemy that had dared to defy me.  I asserted my will and reestablished my place as the master of my household.  Let my other tools see my fury and shrink back in fear.
"Save us from his righteous wrath!!!"
Let me explain why I was angry.  My reel mower is a piece of crap.  I bought it because it was cheap and I have a tiny yard, so I figured a gas mower was unnecessary.  What I found, though, is that the reel mower is regularly foiled by such obstacles as rocks, stumps, large sticks, small sticks, twigs, particularly crunchy leaves, dandelions, other weeds, and grass.  At some point, I ran out of patience.

The lawn mower survived its two foot flight, fortunately, because I still needed it.  Granted, it deserved its fate.  But all humanity is protected from a fate we deserve because of the greatest patience the world has ever seen.  I’ll pause for a moment to let you admire that segue.

Pictured: You, admiring.
God’s patience is something that astounds me whenever I think about it.

Now, my first thought when thinking about God’s patience is that it can’t be quite the same as human patience.  After all, one key element of human patience is being at peace with the passage of time.  Time is precious to us because—at least from our earthly human perspective—we only have a limited supply of it.  It is the ultimate limited resource and we value it highly.  Like many of the things that change when we become children of God, patience starts with recognizing that this life is not all there is.  Once we begin thinking and living in the context of eternity our habits should start to change and patience should follow. 

Because you’re reading my blog, though, studies indicate that you are above average in intelligence and also incredibly handsome (or beautiful).  Because of this superior intelligence (I would like to reiterate that this is very common among people who follow this blog—I’m not saying reading my blog causes great intelligence, but you never know . . . .) you may realize that God is not bound by the confines of time and has omniscience.  That means that patience isn’t quite the same thing to God as it is to humans.

The words used in the Bible to convey patience convey a sense of “long-suffering”, of being slow to anger.  You can see this connotation in verses like 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:20, Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22.  What does an infinite God have to be patient about?

Unfortunately, the answer is humans.  We have rebelled against God for the entire existence of our species, save for a short precious time at the very beginning.  From the beginning, God promised that the result of rebellion is death.  But He remained patient, again and again, and instead of destroying us like He was in the right to do, He crafted a beautiful salvation to free us from the worst consequence of our rebellion.  Keep in mind, we weren’t just breaking some rules.  Every time we sin, we are effectively telling God that we would rather die than live eternally with Him.  Humans have spit in His face, both literally and figuratively, and even Christians do it on a regular basis.  Think for a moment how long it’s been since you last rejected God.  Odds are, it hasn’t been that long when you consider that sin is rejection. 

Patience is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) and like no human can love like God, no human can have patience like God.  No human can withstand constant rejection and active hostility for their entire lives with such great patience.  Despite our constant rejection and our constant hostility, though, what did God do when He came to earth?  He looked over the city that was about to do physically what they had done in spirit for thousands of years cried.  He cried for the people who had rejected Him and would crucify Him.  I can’t help but come very close to the same thinking of the scene.

I'll just leave this here.
Take a moment and reflect on God’s patience and long-suffering, and think about what in your life is testing that patience.  Though if you are a Christian you cannot exhaust either the love or patience of God, does it befit us as adopted children of God to continue to test it?  Realistically, we are a work in progress until the day we die (Phillipians 1:6), but that doesn’t mean that we cannot strive to fulfill our purpose as servants, slaves, and indeed children of God. 

Starting with being more loving towards my lawn mower.