James 5:7-8, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
I took a deep breath, and continued to sort and organize the gym full of supplies. Food along that wall, bottled water over here, clothing there, household on the fourth wall, and miscellaneous, the biggest category, in the center. The last four days were a blur, mostly of sifting, sorting, shoveling, phone calls (when the phones worked), and making split second decisions for our own family’s well being and even for other’s.
I was that deep sort of tired and weary. All the way down to the bones tired. The past Sunday during church, phones started pinging and sending off Tornado warning alarms. Being in the midwest, we were always skeptical of these, glancing quickly at the radar then moving on with our day. But this one ran smack through the middle of town, destroying plenty of homes and a few businesses as well.
I’m great in an emergency; I can keep focus, allow the adrenaline to carry me through, cutting to the heart of a matter and finding what’s important. I am strong and mostly able-bodied. This has always served me well in ministry.
Do you know what I’m not good at? Patience. Do you know what the Lord more often than not requires of me in situations? Patience. I want it done and want it now (sometimes in the petulant way of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, even if I don’t want to admit it). I get bogged down in the long haul; I lose my sense of direction and lack focus. I’ve learned to take a long term goal and break it down over time, giving myself clear and concise benchmarks to help me retain attention.
But I’d run out of adrenaline in the aftermath of this devastation. I was tired of hugging people and murmuring condolences for the loss of their property and sentimental items, while simultaneously praising the Lord that there had been very few physical injuries. I was tired of sorting donations, locating things for people who were in need, worrying about my own children who we’d sent away to family three states away, and worrying about the family who was living with us because their home had been destroyed.
That November day in our church gymnasium was where I realized that I needed a mind shift. I needed to move from emergency mode to long term assistance mode, digging deep for patience and grace. My heart and body were tired and I was crying for the Lord to come and make this situation right. When He didn’t, I realized that I needed to move my heart towards Him. I made an internal list of priorities, and began to let the rest go, delegate responsibilities, and refocus on the important things.
Waiting on the Lord to return often feels this way to me. Like I’m jumping from one emergency to the next disaster and looking around for the Lord to swoop in and make it all go away. I’m not patient about fixing things or waiting for the situation to recover.
But James reminds us that we need to be patient. The fields (and often situations in our lives) need the time, the early and the late rains. They need the time and the experience of the long term. The Lord is not late in returning, His timing is perfect, even if we don’t see it that way.
What is one place in your life that could use a little patience? What is one way you could change your perspective to the Lord’s perfect timing? For me, I know that I need to step outside the emergency situation I might feel that I am in, and focus on how I can care long term for the situation.
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