Two weeks ago at church I found myself laughing during the sermon in that way that people do when something the speaker says hits a little too close to home. The evening’s topic was the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control…” NIV). As the site pastor continued to break down ideas of what each of these so-called ‘gifts’ truly entail, he proceeded to warn the audience of the potential dangers of praying to God and asking for patience. This is when I started laughing.
About 6 years ago I distinctly remember praying to God and asking for patience. In my own life (and in the lives of close friends I’ve spoken with) I have never known God to ignore this prayer—even if you think you don’t really mean it or you say it flippantly in a moment of frustration. For whatever reason, a prayer for patience just seems to be something that you can never take back. I think it’s because God always wants us to move forward, to grow, to learn and to change. So when we specifically ask for a gift that will increase our capacity to grow as individuals, God sees this as an opportunity to initiate the next step.
Shortly after I prayed this prayer, my post college roommates told me that they were going to be moving to different points all over the city (for work mostly) and that I either needed to find new roommates or move somewhere else. So a month later, I moved in with a friend that I knew through other mutual friends from church. Things started out well, we were both on the prayer ministry together and really devoted to learning about Gods purpose for our lives. Yet after about 6 months things started to get uncomfortable around the house. We realized that we were both very different people and that we had completely different outlooks on life. After having a mediated conversation with another friend from church, my roommate and I decided that I should move out. I felt so frustrated. Like all of my efforts to come to a peaceful resolution had been a failure. That I was somehow a failure. It wasn’t until I found an even better living situation and moved into my new apartment that I heard God whisper from His Spirit, “I know that was difficult, but you did well. And you DID ask for patience.”
Right around this time, I was part of a woman’s bible study that was focusing on reading through the book of Acts. I found myself inspired by the words of the apostle Paul and particularly by the story recounting his disagreement with and separation from Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). What I realized in reading this story was that even though Paul and Barnabas were both convicted in their hearts before God to do good for His kingdom, they still fought. In fact, verse 39 says that they had such a sharp argument that they parted company. And yet, this didn’t stop them from preaching the gospel. They actually went out separately (Barnabas ended up taking John Mark with him) and ended up covering twice as much ground as they would have if they had continued on traveling together. And even though scripture doesn’t say it in so many words, I’m pretty sure they ironed things out eventually and continued to live as friends.
Now, several years later, my old roommate and I are still friends. More so, in fact that we were the majority of the time that we shared an apartment. I am humbled and grateful for her capacity to forgive any hurt I might have unintentionally caused—and I am confident from conversations with her that we are both continuing on as better people, to do the work that God has intended for each of us to do in His name.
This week I’m discovering that even after surviving the earning of more patience, the hard thing is that God actually expects me to USE it. For the past 2 years I have been working at a job that I don’t find particularly thrilling. It’s a good job with a stable company and I count myself blessed to have a place to ride out this financial storm, especially in Los Angeles. But the reason I entered into this job, was to finish paying off my school loans so that I could do something that’s been on my heart my whole life: move abroad to Italy. Two weeks ago, I was pretty sure that I would finally be leaving the country in July of this year. I felt relieved. This week, I am completely certain that I will not be leaving this summer. During a rather short, but honest conversation with myself, I came across this question, “Why do you want to leave this summer? Why does it have to be so soon?” I have since determined that the answer, “Because I don’t want to be here in this job anymore,” is not a good enough answer.
I know that there is purpose in my wanting to go to Europe. But I’ve always struggled with including God in the planning discussions. I tend to plan everything, down to the last detail, and then when I’m done God says, “Why don’t you include me in these things, Kira?” It’s never with a harsh voice, but rather with a soft, inviting and patient welcoming. As I have matured as a Christian, I have grown more confident in my ability to hear God when He speaks to me. He has asked me repeatedly to wait since January. And I’m learning that a lot of waiting involves practicing patience. There’s nothing harder for me as a ‘doer’ than to wait.
Feeling like I’ve been blown and tossed by the winds so frequently over the past 5 years, with pursuing multiple jobs in various fields, and avoiding opportunities out of fear—I know now that I’m in a healthier place personally, and in my relationship with God. Yet, for the first time in my life I can honestly say that I really don’t know what I want out of life, career wise. At first that was frightening, but now it’s kind of freeing. I can finally (at least start to) rest in the Lord and trust that He will lead me when the time is right, because He has asked me to wait. God opened my mind to the idea that I could literally go anywhere in the world. I mean I REALLY could! But I need to go with Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind as I was walking up to my doorstep the other day, but not the part that goes, “….plans to prosper you and not to harm you…” it was the beginning section where He says, “For I KNOW the plans I have for you…” Then this morning, as I was reading through Psalm 27, a part of scripture that I’ve read many times before, the ending spoke to me. Ps 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” I’ve always hated waiting because I’ve felt like waiting meant sitting on your hands in an empty room doing nothing. But now I know that waiting is just as productive as ‘doing,’ because waiting is actively stepping aside, and inviting God in to do something bigger than what I am able to accomplish by myself. (It’s kind of sick and twisted, and kind of hilarious that the only way I can learn to ‘wait’ is by turning waiting into an activity!). In this season, I find God standing beside me, asking me to step aside from the business of my life. To prioritize engagements with good friends, but to also make time for myself. I hear Him calling me to be still, and to listen. I hear Him say, “Be strong, take heart, and wait.”