Patience is a Double-Edged Sword
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is part of a series. Check out the other ones!
"Good things comes to those who wait."
We always know how much patience we truly have when that patience is tested to our breaking point. My kids, for example, know how to hot wire my system to jump past patience and right to wrath! It's really quiet backwards. Those who have had their patience tried time and time again often don't believe they have any. Meanwhile, the ones who have never needed patience in life often think they're patient people.
Patience is a virtue, and wrath is it's deadly sin. How we understand these two can help us know when we are truly acting in God's patience, and when we are simply being a door mat.
Wrath is one of those "deadly sins" we often have a hard time seeing as good, but maybe it's time we understand the virtue of anger. Angry people are typically optimistic. That one got me, but I understand. When we see the best in society and/or for ourselves, we respond negatively when it doesn't turn out that way. Also, anger is a motivator, and in healthy relationships can strengthen bonds. Righteous indignation is healthy wrath. It jumps in when deadly patience rears it's ugly head, but more on that later.
Patience when tied to deadly wrath.
Word of advice: Be skeptical of the minister who is impatient. Healthy patience comes from active hope. Our active hope means healthy patience is active too. We are not merely waiting for the world to change for us. We are preparing as we wait for the rising tide. We are building, working; anticipating. As I wrote a few years back, hope is like a map. You are naming where X hits the spot. Hope is believing in the destination and seeking that destination. A minister rooted in hope will exude that active patience, seeking out that hope. Ministers who lack patience are more likely to be spiritually without a destination. Don't pick leaders who don't know where they're going.
Deadly wrath is a sign that hope has been lost. People react in the moment, because they can't see how their X on their map even exists anymore. This is where things get a bit more complex, and not as easy to pick good vs bad.
There are actually two ways patience can be weaponized.
The first way, is to replace active hope with empty promises. When you tell someone to just wait without anything to wait for, you are keeping that person from an active hope. Sometimes we do it to ourselves. Buying lotto tickets in hopes of winning is an empty hope. Wishing the worst things on our enemies comes from an empty hope. (If it's not empty, we need to take that hope down, and burn it!)
The second way patience is weaponized is when anger is misunderstood as wrath. There are times we attempt to shut people down because we don't want to deal with the possibility that their anger is justified. I know I'm angry over being told to "hang in there" when there was nothing I was hanging on for. That's not wrath, that's loss. We are fearful of angry loss, specifically if that loss means the person realizes their specific hope was lost with it. The hope that their baby would grow up but a stray bullet killed her. The hope that of walking the straight and narrow will lead to a good education, but kids of famous children took their spot because, well, their parents were loaded. The hope that someone would carry out his promise, but now he's a congress man/senator/[name your elected office here] he's doing his own thing. These events can lead us to righteous anger, which is the loss of our potential hope, not deadly wrath.
The loss of potential hope is more likely to happen with groups or people who don't hold the power. The word, "Patience," becomes deadly, as it shuts down the action of loss. We need to engage that pain while it can be engaged in a healthy way, because brokenness breaks, always. When we shut down the pain, the situation can become worse, causing the unheard voice to lash out and take someone else's potential hope. It's a deadly cycle that can be stopped, but not with empty patience.
Patience as an action of hope.
Patience as an action of hope is active. It has always been active. It will always be active. Active patience means we are not trying to get to the destination before it's time, but taking the steps necessary to get their in the right time. The next time someone tells you to wait, or be patient, ask yourself if they are feeding you an empty hope, or if that waiting is part of something real. If it's real, and active, then you are living into a virtue.