Patience and Power

Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city

-Proverbs

 

I blinked and looked at the page again. Patience is better than power… the words roll through my mind to my heart. They echo on the walls. There’s a large space there and He’s standing in it.

“Do you believe that Aroea?”

I don’t answer. It’s always dangerous when He asks a question.

“Do you believe it is better to be patient with your life right now than it is to be powerful in it?”

I still don’t answer. I don’t have to. We both already know the answer.

I wrote recently about slowing down. It has been an in season word for me and one that was initially as vexing as this one. Any of us with children know full well there is no slowing down. But He had been talking about my soul. It was my thoughts, feelings and will that were going too fast and I was stampeding joy, peace and meaning right out of my life. But I think (even in my writing) I had missed the point. Why was my soul going too fast?

I have so many good intentions.

I stay at home to raise my little ones. I homeschool to ready my big ones. I home-church to take responsibility for my faith and my community; and I really want to do a good job. Actually, I want to do a great job but that is an ambiguous statement, full of detours, accurately assessed over a much longer trajectory than I care to admit. If I’m honest the thing that causes my soul to speed up most is not fear, nor ignorance, nor guilt (though at times I struggle with all). It’s my own desire for power.

I would much rather be powerful over my children’s behavior than patient with them in it.

I would much rather have the power to determine a schedule rather than patient with the happenings of life.

I would much rather have the power to change people (myself primarily) than to be patient while God does that work.

Whether through influence or force, I believe that power is better than patience.

I know I’m going to hit a nerve here. We have two strongholds in this generation. The first is unrighteousness which is the wanton indulging of our pride and our senses. The second is self-righteousness or as we’ve come to call it “self-help”. Patience offends the second.

Don’t get me wrong, there are good habits and they can bear good fruit. There are good choices we can make. The greatest gift God gave us was a will to choose. But at the root of those choices, when you peel it all back and get down to the base level, what is sitting there? Is it the faith that God is mighty to save and working out His perfect nature in us or is it the rotting compulsion to be better to make more of ourselves?

It is not wrong for me to try to train my children. It is wrong for me to be impatient with who they are. It is not wrong for me to want to change the world. It is wrong for me to be impatient with the laundry that’s in front of me to do today. It is not wrong for me to want to be a better person, more loving, more healthy, more humble. It is wrong for me to be impatient with where I’m at today.

Because impatience is a proud and faithless posture. It does not acknowledge the reality that is life nor the wisdom which is God’s. Life is not tidy. It’s a convoluted intersection of people, events and energy. It’s a lot to wade through everyday. When I’m impatient with my life I’m not acknowledging the complexity of it all nor its significance. I’m also not acknowledging God  at work in all. It may not look how I want it to, but it’s His grace that has brought me where I am today.

Sin is a much deeper cancer than ever I thought. My failings, the failings of my fathers, the failings of my human race are intrinsic. But His love is so unrelenting and so unimaginable that He places His own nature into our rotting marrow and remakes us from the inside out. That miracle happens in an instant and yet takes time to permeate the whole. When I am impatient I am in a posture of doubting and disregard for the miracles He’s working and the great wisdom with which He does it. 

Repentance.

It’s such a gift. The ability to change our mind. To see it differently. God is so gracious to bring me to repentance again and again. I would rather conquer cities- nations even. I want to change myself, change my children, change the world. Yet, He is showing me a better way. He’s showing me how to be patient with all. To master my own foolish temper and trust that when He decides to change the world He’ll take me with him.

It doesn’t all have to happen today. All the good you want to do. All the needs you want to meet. All your great ideas.  Our good intentions can lead us right out of His presence if we’re not careful. Most likely He’s only interested in one thing… you drawing near to Him. And in strange and unexpected ways somehow in that we end up doing more good anyway. It’s His fullness of glory and our fullness of joy.

Father, 

You know that I am a hot-tempered child. You see how easily I’m lead astray by my own ambition. You know that I am impatient. Thank you for your love. Thank you for mercifully showing me a better way. Thank you for writing it down so I could read it over and over and over. Help those out there to not lose heart. To be patient with where they are; where their life is. Help them to choose to seek you in the midst of it and fill them to overflowing. Help us to mature, to be better, to do better, to look like Jesus in a world filled with rage, indifference and pride. Help us to love well. Be glorified in us. Be our song and our shield against the pressures and the strain of this life. You are beautiful. 

Amen. 

Slowing Down

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The Things In Dreams

She said she had a dream and the point was that I should “slow down!” Then she hung up.

Suddenly I’m standing in my kitchen with five anxious children circling like vultures, looking for some scrap of confident direction for the day. I didn’t have it.  In one miraculous act of good judgement I swallowed the guilt of teleparenting (where you entrust your children into the loving care of a screen) and sent them to watch a Magic School Bus. Then the tears came in torrents.

I had been feeling the pressure build in my chest for a couple days. Now my heart was as wide open as the suitcase on the table. The suitcase I was supposed to be packing. The suitcase that I didn’t have clean laundry to put in because all the laundry was in baskets all over the kitchen. I felt alone and overwhelmed. I was working so hard only to find at the end of each day I didn’t really get anywhere. The needs were piling up, the frustration was leaking out, and the resentment between me and my life- my family, was growing. In my mind, I was screaming at Him now…

This is so impossible. Everything is hard. How can you possibly tell me to slow down? There is no slowing down. Even when I try to do nothing there’s something- someone to feed, or comfort or answer! There are no breaks!!! I didn’t even want to be a mom, but I still give my all and then You come and tell me to slow down! Is this some sick joke?! 

 

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The Patient Tutor

And there He is. Standing there, patiently looking at me and saying what He said to them when they were confused and offended. Are you going to leave me too?

But where can I go? These are the words of life.

Funny, how something that cuts you can still bring life. The fact of the matter is that I desperately needed those words despite the pain they brought. Really they only hurt my pride and I was suffocating in my pride. Pride isn’t always the arrogance we mistake it for. More often than not it’s just the belief that we are at the center of it all. And that’s where I was again. It was all hanging on my shoulders and either I was going to drop it and see the pieces shatter, or I was going to crumble under the weight of daily life. Neither of those outcomes sounded great.

But really, how can I slow down? The truth is I can’t; at least not physically. I do try to defend quiet time and if I can’t nap when they do I’ll often escape to the shower to reset. Sometimes that doesn’t even happen. And even if it does my heart is still on. And that’s the thing about caring deeply about something; even when you’re not physically present your heart is always on.

And my heart, as usual, is what He was talking about.

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Time For Moments

My heart had been going too fast.

Worry, guilt, ambition- they are cruel masters. They stand on our backs, whip in hand saying “Faster! Faster!” They take all strength and transfer all fault. They isolate us from those at our side and afford us no rest. He is different. He is a yoke bearer. He doesn’t stand on the plow, with a whip and yell. He says to come to Him and take His yoke because He is meek and we will find rest.

But Jesus walks at a much slower pace than our hearts are used to. In this we can find Him unfamiliar. Still, we also find Him good. Isn’t it interesting that the God who is holding all things together makes time for us? That He isn’t unsettled by the fact that things aren’t yet as they should be? And He doesn’t let the work determine His pace. He is governed by His own goodness and grace. Shouldn’t I be too?

Suddenly, I could breath. Suddenly, I could see the stuff that didn’t matter for what it was. Suddenly, I didn’t resent my children. In that moment, I could feel my heart shift and magically the last few weeks have been filled with clarity, conversations, and even a few crafts  (which never happens). Even with my husband gone for half a month there was somehow more time; more space for what mattered most. I can feel myself in the moment and more importantly I can feel Him by my side. I’m not alone. And if I am overwhelmed it is not by the need but by His goodness.

It’s a daily choice; to tell my heart to slow down and walk with Him. When I look at the circumstances I’m easily led off pace and off track. When I look at myself I’m discouraged. But when I look at Him, well, it’s just better. My heart feels calm, and my feet feel sure and my kids don’t get left in the wake of my good intentions. It’s a better way. He’s a better way.

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Kid’s Stained Glass

Father, for those who have lived lives full of ambition, fear, and guilt. For those who are running at a pace they can’t sustain and are losing the battles that matter most, shine your light on their hearts. Give them the courage to stop. Free their hearts from wicked masters who deprive the laborer of their food. Show yourself to them and let them have peace. Heal hearts that need healing today. Give new mercies where the old wells have dried up. Speak! Speak to their hearts and let them hear. In Jesus’ beautiful name. Amen. 

 

p.s. As part of my slowing down, I have started a video blog to speak the encouragements that I so badly need to hear as a mother, and to bring a little laughter into your day. If you would like a laugh at my expense click here.