Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Saint Impatient

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 that as I got older, I’d become warmer, kinder, mellower and more patient. But somehow the “nicer with age” thing hasn’t worked out for me as well as my loved ones had hoped. I may even be getting a little less patient and I’m blaming technology 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. I’d impatiently sit there while they laboriously hand-copied the information for their report. Resentful over the amount of time that took, we bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Awesome! Now it took only five to ten minutes to go into the other room, find the right volume and look something up! But today everything known in the world is instantly available on the  internet. And just the other day I was incensed that it took over seven seconds for an online encyclopedia to load on my smartphone. Absolutely 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 summarys and sound bites. For some, having to read anything over 140 characters long is tedious and unnecessary. A recent study showed that if the light turns green and the car ahead doesn’t go, the average amount of time you’ll give them before you impatiently lean on your horn is two seconds.

“Patience is a virtue,” we’re told and patience* is listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. You may already have the patience of a Saint, but if not, how do we get it? Patience has been defined as “waiting without complaint.” We read that Jesus’s twelve original disciples were thick-headed, selfish and slow to believe. And, with those twelve, if anyone ever had the proverbial “patience of a Saint,” it was Jesus! That’s why, for us to become more patient, we may need to be a little more like Jesus and change our concept of “time.”
* Greek: makrothumia can be translated as “patience” or “longsuffering.”

I can walk along the beach for hours and it seems like just a few minutes. I can sit quietly by the lake at Saint Andrew’s Abbey, listen to the wind in the trees, and completely lose track of the time. I’m annoyed when it takes an agonizing fifteen seconds for an application to load on my computer. I live up to my nickname of “Saint Impatient” at the grocery store when the cashier tells the woman in front of me what the total is and that’s when the woman begins to rummage through her purse looking for her checkbook. The difference in my response to these life experiences is my perception of time.  And how I perceive time is a matter of spiritual discipline. 

Some of us may 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. In our Bible we find that the Greeks had 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. 

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 may 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 get any better than this.

The spiritual discipline of spending Kairos time in silence with God, changes our concept of Chronos time. The car ahead doesn’t speed away at the green light...the woman finds her check book and starts looking in her purse for the pen. But now we take a deep breath. We thank God for the moment of time we have now just been given to come into His presence and feel His peace. And as we respond to the present moment in the rhythm of the divine, we wait without complaint and respond with His grace.  Amen?

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