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“When the fullness of time had come,” says Paul, “God sent his Son.”  Paul suggests that a ripening of time surrounds Jesus’ birth.  When the right moment comes—when God’s appointed time arrives—only then is the Christ born.

Exercising patience to wait for God’s appointed time isn’t easy for me. An old cartoon I clipped from The New Yorker describes me well. A man is kneeling by his bedside, and prayer goes like this: “I asked You, in the nicest possible way … but apparently You couldn’t be bothered.”[1] That kind of sums it up for me.

But, if I take the narrative history of the Bible seriously, then I remember that patience is a necessary character trait. God exercises tremendous patience in creating things of great beauty and lasting value.  There are certain things, it seems, that can’t be rushed.

Simeon and Anna learned this truth, too. In our gospel text, we read that Anna was an 84-year old prophetess.  We don’t know the precise age of the holy man Simeon, but we learn that he is approaching the time of death.  They have been watching, and praying, waiting and hoping for a moment. After frustration and disappointment, each recognizes that moment finally has come.

As we move from one calendar year to another, perhaps you are experiencing frustration about a goal unachieved or disappointment about a hope shattered. Sometimes you are frustrated because of the sinful, imperfect world in which we live.  Perhaps you have been pushed from the path in which you believe God has placed you. Or perhaps you’ve been disappointed by an unexpected illness or injury, a family member who has made poor choices, or emergency expenses.  But it’s also possible to be frustrated as a result of our own impatience.

In our age, there are many factors that have diminished our ability to exercise patience.  In former ages, people waited months for letters to arrive from a loved one, or for a gift to arrive from faraway.  In our age, we pull out our smart phones, and with a few clicks we see the latest tweet from a friend in a foreign country, or the location of a package we have paid to be delivered by FedEx.  In our context, patience may appear to be an almost radical concept.

The contemporary desire for fast action and immediate results contrasts sharply with the way in which God’s saving activity is displayed in our sacred history.  Moses lives for decades in the wilderness before the Hebrews claim the Promised Land.  David lives for years at war before all his enemies are conquered.  The Israelites live for generations in Babylonian exile before Jerusalem is restored. Matthew expends a great deal of ink to detail Jesus’ genealogy, fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to Babylonian Exile, fourteen generations from Babylonian Exile to the birth of Jesus. There are some things that can’t be rushed; God creates wonderful things in God’s own time.

When you think about your own life, you will realize that there are many things of great beauty and value that take time to develop properly: a budding relationship with the one who will be your life’s partner, the healthy birth of a long-expected and much-anticipated child, the completion of schooling that prepares you for your life’s work, an investment plan that provides the foundation for your children’s education or your retirement dreams.

Several years back, Morgan Quail was pictured on the cover of the annual California Fishing Regulations, and interviewed by a newspaper about his honor. Morgan is my first cousin once removed – the son of my cousin Mike Quail – so I paid attention. Morgan has been fishing the Trinity River near my Uncle Stan’s property since he was a toddler. Uncle Stan – who died just a few months ago – remembers that Morgan caught his first 15-pound salmon when he was only six years old, alternately screaming for help and singing hallelujah.

Morgan says that fishing has taught him how to calm down and think. He learns something new every time. The water changes – its temperature, depth, even the width of the river. You have to know what season it is, and what the fish are eating. Fishing has taught him perseverance and patience.

Morgan was only ten years old one chilly morning, when at 4:45 AM he hooked into a very big fish. He says, “Then all of a sudden, my pole just bent forward and the reel started singing. The fish took off and it kept running and it ran and it ran, and for 45 minutes I fought the fish.”[2]  It’s a photo with that fish that made the cover of the California Fishing Regulations. Wider than Morgan, and only five inches shorter, the boy-sized fish was landed by a boy who exercised great patience.

I believe there are special moments like that in store for all of us. They may not involve fish, or place us on the cover of a magazine. When we trust God for the long haul, there are moments when God’s purposes are revealed, sacred times for which all the ordinary times are prelude and preparation.

When we are feeling frustrated and impatient, remember: By God’s grace, there is a moment coming that we have been preparing for all our lives.   Let’s keep our eyes open for something so lovely that we know its source is the Creator of every good gift.  For there are some things that can’t be rushed; God is creating something beautiful in God’s own time.

[1] The New Yorker, 14 September 1998.

[2] Elaine Mao, “A-fish-ionado,” The Epitaph, 13 Dec. 2006, accessed on 27 Jan. 2007 at



~ by JohnH1962 on December 28, 2014.

One Response to “Patience”

  1. I remember that photo. Mike came for a visit to Flint that year with copies of the regulation manual for us all. I was at Uncle Stan’s place in the Northern California mountains one time in the mid 80’s. I remember the smell of the pines and the view from his place on the peak of the mountain was breath taking. A winding trail took you down to the river which was near a dam. The water was almost too cold to swim in.

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