Schools and churches in our area are trying to reopen and the challenges are formidable. One of the most troublesome aspects is the uncertainty caused by ever-changing circumstances related to the pandemic. Just when a school or church announces their plans, the underlying assumptions that supported those plans shift—throwing everything back into flux. People crave stability and this kind of roller coast ride unsettles most of us.
One church has been living with this as they have resumed outdoor worship services (and announced their intention to stay with that plan for the next several months). One of their pastors was dealing with a person complaining about various aspects of how that plan was being put into place. Since the complainer made it a public discussion, overhearing it made me sad and then made me smile.
The sad part was a pastor having to deal with a complaining person, despite how hard he was working in 100-degree heat to make the outdoor service possible. The smile part was how he patiently handled the problem, never losing his temper or pointing out the frivolous nature of the issues being raised. He demonstrated one of the more elusive Christian graces—patience.
Patience is usually discussed in the Bible in the context of some pressure-filled situation. Happy times don’t call for patience. Unsettled times, irascible people, emotional stress, and physical fatigue do. Our patience is tested in those moments and the depth of our spiritual and emotional maturity is revealed. Right now, patience is as important as faith, hope, or even love as we navigate prickly people and situations.
Patience means more than not exploding in anger (and yes, I have done that at least once during the pandemic—not my best moment). It’s about choosing to be unruffled and soothing, while answering the same questions over and over again. It’s about quietly correcting rather than aimlessly arguing when a person is unreasonable. Another good word for this is forbearance—bucking up, bowing your neck, and in the words of one of my old coaches, “gutting it out.”
Leaders need patience right now, but so do their followers. Whichever of those categories best describes you, check your patience-quotient. If you are running low, get with God and get recalibrated. Schools and churches can thrive through circumstances like these if the people involved—leaders and followers—focus more on how they are treating each other than how their needs are supposedly going unmet or how emotionally disruptive circumstances may feel.
If you have ever prayed for patience, God may be answering your prayer right now by giving you the opportunity to demonstrate it by showing deference to others. May God make it so!