A wonderful pastor in Alexandria, Va., preached a sermon series entitled, “Stories God Should Have Left Out of the Bible.” I am really resonating with that pastor.
However, I do not want to omit entire stories from the Bible. I could settle with just a few words being redacted. Perhaps only one: “patience.”
According to a Google search, “patience” is defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Whoever wrote that definition never experienced sheltering in place through a pandemic.
From my perspective, just surviving our current situation is a win.
The Bible frequently connects the word “patience” to suffering and affliction. If it does not show up there, “patience” seems to attach itself to the notion of spiritual growth and maturity.
It is usually a form of instruction or direction. The Bible tells us to show patience in the face of adversity or to allow patience to complete its work on our souls.
If I am very honest with myself, I do not want to demonstrate patience. There is a real part of me that just wants this pandemic to be over. I want to be able to go to the movies or restaurant without a care in the world. I want the children to be able to return safely to school. I want to attend worship and hug and kiss all of the members.
Perhaps, that is why the word “patience” appears more than 30 times in the Bible. We need something on the inside of us to counterbalance the chaos we are experiencing on the outside.
The notion of patience finds its home in hope. Hope provides us with a long view of our current circumstances. Hope gives us a reason to demonstrate patience. Perhaps life will not meet my timetable, but hope refocuses me to the fact that one day, this pandemic will be over.
Here’s a new definition of patience: Patience is the process of finding hope when facing difficult times. It is the ability to take a breath, or simply to exhale.
For me, patience is like an intentional deep spiritual breath. Every day I breathe in and out roughly 20,000 times. However, a few of those breaths are on purpose. I breathe in deeply and feel the air fill my lungs. My focus shifts from the things that are happening outside of me to my inner life. My heart rate slows and I become very mindful.
When I exhale, the stress seems to flow out with the air that is leaving my body. I feel a cleansing as the carbon dioxide is replaced with oxygen.
Maybe I can live with a Bible that reminds me to practice patience. I need to be reminded to pray and breathe.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.