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Patience -- A Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Well, what a week it’s been!

We’ve seen record snowfalls in Loudoun County, resulting in all kinds of disruptions, including an “eleven-day weekend” for the schools, power outages, and two consecutive “record-low-attendance” Sundays.

A huge shout-out to all those for whom the snowfalls did not mean “Sabbath time” but who had to soldier on: those who work in grocery stores, gas stations, police and fire/rescue personnel, hospital staff, snowplow operators, and others.

As much as I love snow, I have to admit: it was nice to see the blue skies yesterday and today, and to see more and more folks emerging, digging out, and trying to return to normalcy.

But -- here’s your pastoral advice for the next few weeks -- keep in mind that it will be a long time before “normal” returns.

Even if school resumes next Tuesday, school buses and commuters will be sharing roads that are half or less their normal width, causing even greater congestion than normal. And with many sidewalks buried under chest-high heaves of snow, many of those roads will be shared with pedestrians trying to avoid slush.

So we’re already being told to “be patient” the next few weeks.

“Be patient.” Nice advice, but difficult to follow.

That’s because telling someone to “be patient” is a little like telling someone to “give Krugerrands.”

How would you respond if I said, “Hey, next time you’re out, give someone you see a couple of Krugerrands, okay?”

Even if you knew what they were, you probably don’t have any.

That’s my point about patience. Even if we know what patience is, most of us don’t have any.

And we can’t be, or give, what we don’t have.

So it’s good to keep in mind that patience -- along with love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control -- is a fruit. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, we can’t manufacture -- make, create -- patience (or love, joy, etc.) on our own…we can’t decide to “be” patient (or loving, or joyful, etc.). Not for long, anyway. Trying to just sets us up for failure and disappointment.

The good news is that patience and the other fruits of the spirit come to us naturally to the degree that our hearts are rooted in the Holy Spirit, who is an inexhaustible source of what we seek.

So if you, like me, run short of patience the next few weeks, remember the Karl Barth quote, that “a drowning person cannot pull himself out of the water by his own hair. And neither can I; I must be rescued.”

“Rescue” in this instance refers to being pulled up out of the waters of self-centeredness, which leads to irritability and impatience.

Rooted in the Holy Spirit, we don’t need to “try” to be patient -- it comes naturally. It’s our instinct to slow down and wave someone in…help someone out…be moved to compassion instead of frustration or anger.

The next few weeks will test our patience: for a while, everyone’s expectations that “things are normal” were lowered, and benefit of the doubt was high. But each day now, expectations of normalcy will climb, and the benefit of the doubt will drop.

Ask anyone who has lost a loved one what the most difficult time is, they’ll tell you it is not in the days and weeks following the loss, but a year later. That’s because the pain of the loss is still there, but the anesthesia has worn off…the anesthesia of adrenaline, attention, and acts of kindness.

People of St. James’, in the aftermath of these snowstorms, let’s live up to our call (as Jesus-followers) to be counter-cultural people.

As everyone is trying to get back to normal, let’s remember that things are NOT going to be normal for a while, and use that as a reminder to get back to our roots.

Let’s use the convergence of these post-snowstorm days and the beginning of Lent to start, or renew, a daily time of prayer…fifteen minutes to half an hour each morning of time spent alone with God. For God is the wellspring and source into whom we must tap if we are to be people making this snowy corner of the world a better, more patient, loving, joyful place.

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