The last few days, I have been around friends with young children. My youngest is about to be 20, so it has been striking to me to remember the commitment it is to raise a little child. When you are in the thick of it, it seems perfectly normal and comes naturally to most people, but it is truly a massive undertaking. Taking a helpless newborn and nurturing them, training them, helping them learn to walk and talk and act properly, and eventually to be independent is no small achievement. It is a long game, and takes much patience, day after day, for many years.
If any of us were to try to select a word that perfectly described the heart of American culture in 2019, several words might pop into mind - rushed, busy, plugged-in, frustrated - but patient is not likely to be anywhere near the top of the list. You read all the time about road rage, fistfights on Black Friday, rude comments in response to social media posts, and so many other incidents of complete impatience and annoyance. Beyond that, we have become so used to things happening instantly that we have lost the ability to wait for anything. We want what we want right now, and tend to become frustrated when it does not happen. Fast food used to be a novelty, and two-day shipping was unheard of. Now we are mad when the order takes fifteen minutes or if the package comes a day late. Carefully and lovingly written letters used to be something we took the time to compose - and how wonderful it was to anticipate the reply. Now we are frustrated when people do not respond to our quick text within the hour. We are not patient as a collective.
The older translations of the Bible sometimes used a different word for patience, a word that has sadly fallen out of common use, and that is long-suffering. What a great term - it clearly describes the reality of the parent/child relationship. It plainly spells out the fact this is going to take a very long time and cost me a great deal. But implicit in the parent-child relationship is the truth that all of the long-suffering is absolutely worth it. Patiently helping our little ones learn and grow has great reward and pleasure that far outweighs the personal sacrifice of time, resources, and energy.
This understanding of patiently and selflessly helping others who need care ought to be treated seriously in each of our homes, but could also transform our neighborhoods and cities. Things are not ideal in our society, and most of us are perpetually disheartened. We all look around for someone else to fix things, and quickly, but it never seems to happen. What could happen if every Christian embraced this long-game mentality like that of a parent with a child, and really helped others learn to grow in the grace and knowledge of God?
One of my favorite Psalms has always been Psalm 40. Verses 1-3 say...
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
This is my personal testimony. As a college freshman, I had selfishly opted out of the lifestyle in which my parents had raised me – one of godliness, temperance and faithfulness – and jumped wholeheartedly into the college scene. Jesus indeed lifted me out of a slimy pit – I hate to think of what my life would look like now if He hadn’t saved me! He truly set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand; He did put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
This psalm is my story - with one great difference. I was not the person who waited patiently for the Lord, it was a wonderful woman named Melanie who waited patiently on my behalf. I have no doubt that she will one day receive a great reward in Heaven for her long-suffering and selflessness. Eli had been attending a Bible study that Melanie's husband held that year, and had a tremendous salvation experience. Melanie introduced herself to me and invited me into her home and into her life, and very kindly began causing me to question some of my beliefs and behaviors.
Over a period of months she listened to me and loved me – without judging me- and patiently guided me to the feet of Jesus. I am quite sure that without her influence I would not know the Lord as I know Him today, nor would every person that I have been able to help over the years, nor the ones that they have helped in turn. When I think back to the year I spent in her care and discipleship, I am amazed by her patience. I vividly remember some of the jumbled thoughts I shared with her, sadly unaware of my own spiritual ignorance, but she never gave up on me. Melanie and her husband poured themselves into us for months, tirelessly guiding and redirecting us until our feet found that firm place to stand. They could have done so many other things with their time, but they chose to spend it helping us learn to walk with God and to care for others around us, and it changed our lives.
God has dealt so patiently with me. He sent a woman into my life who took me by the hand as I stumbled, and who helped me fan my faith into flame. Now I must ask myself whether I have done the same for others. Have I been unselfish with my life, choosing to give my time to people who need some guidance and encouragement? We have a saying in our ministry that we try to impart to everyone who comes through: what God does in me, He wants to do through me. In other words...
I am never an end for the blessings of God to flow into and just remain. I am a conduit for the blessings of God to flow through, so that many may experience His goodness.
Many hurting people could experience the love and hope of Jesus if we would take this seriously. Many people in our churches and neighborhoods and places of work are floundering in the mud and mire, waiting for one of us to reach out a hand and help them find the firm place to stand. It took a year of Melanie's life and time to get me on the right track and solidly plugged into a Christian community where I could continue to learn and grow, and I had been raised in a loving, Christian home with much regular church and Bible influence. How much more time and effort might it take for someone who starts at a much more disadvantaged place? Just like my friends with infants and toddlers, it might take years of patience and commitment to help someone meet Jesus and learn to walk with Him.
Look around this week - who could use your help and time and care? Many people - especially young people - all around you are lacking help and direction, and plenty of people with wicked motives are likely to find them. Perhaps the Lord would lead you to be a godly and safe influence in their life instead? Opening up our hearts and homes in long-suffering hope and care for others certainly costs, but the reward of helping someone walk with Jesus far outweighs the toll. Let's choose this path so that many may see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
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Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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