Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Patience of a Saint

Dear Friends,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I snap at her, “I have the patience of a Saint.” She rolls her eyes and laughs, “Yeah! Saint Impatient!!”

They all thought as I got older, I’d become warmer, kinder, mellower and more patient. But somehow the age thing hasn't worked out for me as well as my loved ones had hoped. In fact, I may even be getting a little less patient and I’m blaming it on the internet that feeds a desire for instant gratification.

I used to drive my school-age step-children to the library to look something up in the encyclopedia. That was a one to two hour excursion. Resentful over the amount of time that took, we bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Now it took only five to ten minutes to go into the other room, find the right volume and look something up. I now use the internet and was incensed the other day that it took over ten seconds for the page to load with the subject matter I was looking up. Unacceptable!

We have become a culture of impatience. Our children have grown up with a diminished capacity for sustained activities. We've lost interest in detailed news stories and prefer summaries and sound bites. For some, having to read anything over 140 characters long is tedious and unnecessary. And, 3.5 minutes is way too long to have to wait for the popcorn in the microwave!

“Patience is a virtue,” we’re told and patience* is listed as one of the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. We know we need it, but what is patience and how do we get it? Patience is defined as “waiting without complaint.” Over the past weeks, we've heard how the youthful apostles were thick-headed, lazy, selfish and slow to believe. And, with those twelve, if anyone ever had the proverbial “patience of a Saint,” it is Jesus!

For us to become more patient, we may need to be a little more like Jesus and change our concept of “time” so that we too can wait without complaint. I can walk along the beach for hours and it seems like just a few minutes. I can walk on my exercise treadmill for just few minutes and it can seem like hours. I can sit by the lake at Saint Andrew’s Abbey, listen to the wind in the trees, and completely lose track of the time. I’m outraged when it takes an agonizing fifteen seconds for an application to load on my computer. The difference is my perception of time.  And how I perceive time is a matter of spiritual discipline.

Some of us need to step off the hamster wheel of life and just set-a-spell to adjust to the natural rhythms of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Greeks have two words for time. Chronos time means time that is linear. Chronos time is orderly and depends on schedules, calendars and clocks. The other Greek word for time is Kairos. If Chronos is the quantity of those successive moments in our life, Kairos transcends those linear moments. Kairos time has no beginning and has no end.  Kairos is God's time. It's the time for being, not doing. It is contemplative. When we become immersed in Kairos time – in contemplative time with God – we lose track of Chronos time. We come into His presence, into His Kairos time, and we are no longer aware of the clock.

I have to watch my Kairos time on a Sunday morning – it has made me late for church! In contemplative time, we become completely engaged by God. Life itself slows down and, for a moment, completely stops. We sit quietly in the presence of God. We hear His small, still Voice. This is the highest level we can reach in our spiritual relationship with God. This is your life being lived in the fullness. Your earthly life can never be any better than this.

The spiritual discipline of spending Kairos time in silence with God, changes our concept of time. And, while we may never have the patience of a Saint, our life slows down to God’s time. And now, as we respond to the present moment in the rhythm of the divine, we wait without complaint and respond with His grace.  Amen?