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Monday, December 13, 2010

Unlimited Patience

This weekend I got an email from a friend that said, in essence, I'm having a hard time, I feel disconnected with God. It's nothing new but I don't want to stay here. Can we talk soon?

We set up a time to get together, and I told her I was thankful for her honesty. I also tried to encourage her to remember this: the fact that this "disconnect" bothers her is a good thing. It would be far worse if she didn't care... or worse still, didn't even notice the distance.

Two things I read today spoke to her unease. Then a third thing, a Bible study with some students, brought even more light to this dark place. So I share them here -- for her... for you... for a friend who might need these words.
When I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try, because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. I try, in humble hope of the help of God. (Samuel Johnson 1709-1784)

God of abundance, help us live today trusting that there will be enough for tomorrow. Your sources have no end.
Teach us to share our resources, believing that the more we give, the more you will provide for all. Amen. (From Common Prayer, Dec. 13)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his
unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV 1984)
These "stirred the pot" for me, giving my heart and mind such hearty food to chew on. Johnson's words reminded me that in spite of the frustration that comes in stumbling and struggling through old sins time and again, we cannot despair. Dump yourself on God's doorstep and plead for him to pick you up, dust you off and throw you back into the ring. You know He will.

The words from Common Prayer help me to recall that it is in giving that I truly, deeply receive. When I share my resources, I approach the end of my own abilities and tap into God's abundance instead. When I do that, my bearings align in the right direction, and my own shortcomings don't seem so debilitating. Instead, I find a foothold, and gain some traction toward Him. This is the pursuit of holiness.

Finally, Paul's words to Timothy were made new to me as I read them with some students in a coffee shop. Perhaps that is why I love working with young people most -- how can my faith ever get old and redundant when I am constantly around those for whom the faith is a shiny new toy? It refreshes my spirit over and over as I see the wonder of the gospel from their earnest perspective. We read a section of the first chapter of 1 Timothy, and I asked my standard question: What stands out to you?

I always allow for a healthy pause. It takes awhile for the wheels to turn, and I am not in a hurry.

One girl says, I like that phrase, "unlimited patience." That is beautiful. That is God to me.

I shook my head yes. Indeed.

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