But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently. — Romans 8:25
â€œWaitâ€ is a four letter word. The way most of us think of it (and I’m included here) we could use it to cuss someone out. In modern American culture, we do not like to wait. Think about that as you read this devotional, which I’m going to present more or less as it happened to me. Remember also that you’re receiving it late.Â (If you’re wondering what the flower pictures are about, read on!)
Last night Jody told me that she wouldn’t get a devotional done. For various reasons it had simply fallen off the priority list. I said I’d try to get one out.
This morning I started to look at lectionary texts. Part of my personal devotionals is to take a daily look at current lectionary readings. I’ve been amazed at what God led me to. For unknown reasons (you may surmise what you wish) I started my reading with the verse that is coming up in two weeks, Romans 8:12-25. I normally start with the Old Testament reading, then read the Psalm, then the gospel, and finally the epistle. But I started with Paul this time.
I ended up focusing my thoughts on verse 25 which I quoted above, using my own draft translation. There’s something I want to look into later in that verse, because the word used for â€œwaitâ€ there often includes the idea of waiting expectantly or eagerly. Paul adds the word â€œpatiently.â€ At this point I was distracted from my reading and left the remainder for later in the day. I had to drive Jody to work, which started a 7 am today, one of the reasons she’s not writing this devotional.
I was combining meditation on the combination of â€œeagernessâ€ and â€œpatienceâ€ and at the same time wondering whether that aspect of the word should be translated in this verse (most English translations do not). So I was switching between thinking about the technical aspects of the passage and the spiritual idea of combining patience with eagerness.
I left Jody at work and went on toward a gas station. I had let the tank run very low, but thought I would reach the station comfortably. It was not to be. Probably a half mile from the nice discount gas station I intended to use the car sputtered a few times and then stopped permanently. The positive side of this was that I was near a mall (Cordoba for those who live in the Pensacola area), and that I was able to get into the parking lot and sort of sputter into a parking place.
Now if you want to test my patience in the most severe way, interfere with my morning. I get up early, usually between 5 and 6 am, and I find that I do my best work before lunch. Oh, I can work after lunch, but I don’t accomplish as much per hour. In this case I also did not have a gas can, so I had to go in search of a gas station that might also supply a gas can.
Patience and eagerness combined. Picture me walking around, getting directions, finding a gas station, buying a gas can and a couple of gallons of gas, then starting to walk back. All of this was accomplished with what seems like remarkable speed looking back, but which I greeted with marked impatience at the time.
As I was walking back, I see some flowers in various beds in front of the mall. I think â€œthose are really prettyâ€ as I’m walking on by. Suddenly I knew I was supposed to stop and take a picture. Those who know me know that I’m not all that much for taking pictures unless there’s a specific purpose, and I’m not very good at it in any case. I could see no particular reason to take a picture of these flowers.
I took a couple more steps and the feeling grew stronger. I needed to stop a take a picture. So using the camera in my little Palm Centro that serves me as a substitute brain, I stopped and took a picture, not of just one flower bed, but four of them. The interesting thing was that as I looked at the flowers, decided how to do the picture, and so forth, I relaxed. I started to enjoy myself.
I was eager to get home and get to work, but patience came to me. I believe that patience was the presence of God in my eagerness. It’s not wrong for me to be eager to get to my work and writing, but at the same time, I have to be prepared to take time with God along the way.
We have so many of these combinations in our Christian lives. We are saved by God’s grace through no action or merit of our own, yet we are expected to act and live life according to God’s will. While we may strive to do God’s will, we do not claim to have attained. Jesus came as a human being into this world, according to orthodox theology both 100% human and 100% divine. That doesn’t make a great deal of sense to us by human logic, but we believe it nonetheless. We are to wait for the second coming of Jesus, which is soon, but yet seems like it will never come.
Often when we try to resolve these things through human logic we wind up heading right into classic heresies. Faith and works have led to more than is easy to count. Waiting for the second coming has tempted many people to provide a date for that event, even though Jesus said it wouldn’t work.
For me, this morning, patience and eagerness didn’t work together. The idea of waiting both patiently and eagerly was quite illogical. I was ready to believe it, should I conclude that was what God was saying, but I didn’t understand it. That is, until God stepped in for a moment in time and shifted my perspective.
I felt God’s grace in my life this morning, and the means was an empty gas tank, a few flowers, and God’s Spirit reaching out to touch me. That’s not the usual means of grace, but God often proves he can work through unexpected things.