Ministerial Musings: Sacred Patience
I write these words from the waiting room of Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts. My father is still in surgery for blocked, carotid arteries. As some of you know, my Dad recently had a stroke — his third in recent years. He also had a couple of heart attacks and suffers from severe diabetes.
His options are limited.
His doctor informed him that if he did not have this surgery, he would more likely than not have a massive, fatal stroke in the near future. The surgery, though, is risky and comes with no guarantees; he could die on the operating table.
So we wait — his family and friends. We sit in the waiting room of the hospital with other families whose loved ones face one type of surgery or another. Singer-songwriter Tom Petty once proclaimed that, “The waiting is the hardest part.” It brings with it the unease and fretfulness of being utterly helpless.
This is the reality of Lent, is it not? We are in somewhat of a holding pattern. We are waiting for the final steps that will lead us to both a torturous cross and the glorious, empty tomb.
In some respects, we want to rush the journey. On one hand it is because we do not like to wait. On the other hand, we do not want to face the penitential aspects of the Lenten trek. But the journey itself is important and, as I have said many times before, the goal of the journey is the journey itself. Percussionist extraordinaire Neil Peart (of Rush fame) said it best: “The point of the journey is not to arrive.”
But that does not make it any less taxing — the same is true of sitting in a hospital waiting room. We want it to be over. We want to skip the sojourn and know that our loved ones are ok.
But waiting for God and God’s work to unfold in our lives cultivates patience. There are many passages in Scripture that speak of patience:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” ~ Psalm 40:1
“…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” ~ Romans 5:3-5
“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” ~ James 5:7-8
And these are just a few of them.
Patience does produce character. It helps us connect with the Divine. It gives us strength. It helps to nurture our faith.
Use the rest of this Lenten trek to its fullest, my friends. Be still. Find solitude. Cultivate the peace that will yield abundant blessings.
By the way, my Dad came through surgery amazingly. He is conscious and doing quite well. He waited patiently on the Lord. May we all do the same.
The Rev. Dr. John Tamilio III
John Tamilio III is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an accomplished guitarist, and a nationally published author. His first book of poetry, Blind Painting, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2003. He and his wife, Susan, live in Lakewood, Ohio with their children: Sarah, “Jay” (John IV), and Thomas.