Last week we began this short series on the spiritual discipline of gardening by exploring what it looks like to steward the land that God has granted us. This week we will look at the practice of patience. Patience doesn’t come naturally for me. I think this is enhanced by our culture’s obsession with how to make things available instantaneously. We pay more to expedite things to meet our fast-paced lifestyle. However, in the spiritual discipline of gardening, there aren’t really any shortcuts. In fact, in taking shortcuts, you can actually lose. A few years ago I began working on a book called “Yelling at Apple Trees”. In my research for this book, I learned some fascinating things. For example, did you know there are seed archeologists? They look for seeds of long-lost plant varieties and try to preserve them for posterity. In the case of apple trees, prior to the Industrial revolution, we had thousands of varieties of apples. In fact, many families had their own variety that they would pass down. However, when the industrial revolution hit and people started working in a different environment and growing less of their own food, they started visiting grocery stores. Grocery stores were all about what products they could get fast and sell the most. So they focused on growing certain varieties of apples, which are many of the ones you see in our stores today. There are over 7,500 varieties of apples but in our stores, we see maybe five. By focusing on what grows fast, cheap, and big we have lost much of the variety and beauty that God has given us.
The same is true in our spiritual lives. We praise passion yet dismiss patience. We promote boldness yet pass over meekness. We have become a Christian body that looks homogenous and with little variety.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book several years ago titled “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”. The title alone made me want to read it. In it he talks about how the Christian life is a long obedience through many different seasons: doubt, fruitlessness, abundance, peace, and despair. Our culture often stands in juxtaposition with the practice of patience. Patience is the fertile ground in which grace and truth develop into maturity. Knowing the truth is like having a seed and patience is allowing that truth to move from conceptual to practical and applicable.
We often work hard, tilling the ground, working the soil, and planting the seed, only to get frustrated by the practice of patience. A few years ago my friend Brad gave a sermon on waiting. He said, “waiting is not idleness, waiting is the art of preparation”. That has stuck with me. While I wait for things to grow, in faith I begin to prepare. I get my baskets ready, I get my canning jars and recipes lined up. I prepare in faith that God will work and is at work, even in the waiting.
Lord, may you grant us patience with ourselves and with others. May you teach us how to live and how to love, one step at a time.
How are you at being patient? In what areas are you the most patient and in what areas are you the least? Why is that?
How can you practice being patient? Like the apples, are there any areas that you have obsessively focused on? Are there any areas you have missed?