My battles with impatience are lifelong. At age five, I grew tired of waiting for mom to help clean my fishbowl. I cleaned it alone, superbly, with Ivory Dish soap, and poor fishy still swimming inside. During my teen years in my father’s greenhouses, my speed approach to transplant work murdered hundreds of innocent seedlings, leaving gaps in flats of flowers.
Unfortunately, adulthood didn’t bring maturity. Any household task I didn’t like I simply tried to do faster and faster. If I could get back every bag of flour, jar of spice or gob of Crisco I dropped on the kitchen floor, due to haste, I could do my own bake sale. I splattered color-destroying cleaning products on clothing and rugs because I didn’t take the time to change or move a rug.
My impatience translated into my jobs and ministries also. When I didn’t see hoped for fruit in short order, I became discouraged, complained and sometimes quit on an idea. Every time I submitted a proposal of innovative ideas for ministry or education that needed to go through a school or church board I chomped at the bit, fuming and fussing my way through that process. Why couldn’t they see faster how fabulous my ideas were? “I’m a racehorse, not a plough horse,” I used to say frequently.
I still think I’m a racehorse but I’ve learned some things about real champions on the track. The great ones and their trainers don’t quit and they pace themselves. Training a champion runner is a slow, methodical process usually taking several years. Good training involves short spurts of high energy followed by a longer period of restoration. My impatience rode me like a ruthless trainer, not allowing time for situations to grow and me to rest.
Some of you want to quit on something right now because it’s not producing the results or working out the way you imagined. You see a very small amount of progress but it’s so slow as to be barely measurable. It’s possible that the fruitlessness is God’s way of leading you away from something but often that’s not the case. In our current culture where many things come at high speed, like food and information, we start to expect everything else to speed up too. Wrong expectations lead to disappointments.
As I consider the stories of so many saints in the Bible, quick resolutions seem to be the exception, not the rule. Moses, Noah, Joseph, Abraham, David and so many others waited years and years to see destinies and promises to come to pass. Jesus lived quietly, off the grid, for thirty years before his ministry began. God does not count time as we do (2 Peter 3:8,9).
The metaphor of a farmer waiting for his crops is used throughout Scripture. “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring” (James 5:7 NLT). Two of my uncles used to farm. They did not trot out to the fields with rulers each day. They did not pace around the fields, fuming, during the growth period. When it didn’t rain and crops grew more slowly, they prayed and patiently waited. Each season, their seed produced harvest, sometimes bountiful, sometimes meager. They didn’t quit after meager years, they planted prayed and waited again.
Rather than fuming or quitting, ask God to shower your situation with what it needs to grow. Understand that a growth process in your external life is a way in which God is growing patience in your internal life. God inhabits praise, not complaining. Could it be some of your crops are not doing well because they lack the showers of blessings and power of light only found in His presence? Are you filling your environment with thanksgiving and praise or negative emotions? It matters.
Don’t quit on something until you examine what kind of farmer you’ve been with the seed God has given you.