On March 5, 2020 I went to Turfland Clinic for my INR checkup and was one of very few people wearing a mask. But that was the beginning of what turned into our self-isolation for the last eleven weeks! With only trips to groceries and parks, Anita and I have had minimal physical contact with anyone besides each other for over 80 days!
We are up to walking three miles a day without pain. Once we walked to Boston Road Kroger, about two miles away, and both of us ached after covering four miles for that hike. So we backed off to two miles and have slowly been expanding the lengths. This is similar to what we have to do in spiritual disciplines.
Discipline does not happen overnight anymore that that last ten pounds I added came on in an hour, and those pounds will not go away in an hour either. Even fasting a couple meals will not take them off. They have to come off one at a time by eating a little less (maybe skip the cheesecake tonight?) or exercising a little more (maybe go for 3.2 miles today and eat the cheesecake? 😉).
The formulas for weight control are simple:
calories in < calories out = weight loss;
calories in > calories out = weight gain;
calories in = calories out = no weight change.
The challenge comes in how I control those “ins” and how I control those “outs.”
Patience as a spiritual discipline is very similar to weight control. The formulas are simple, but the challenge of how I learn patience, those little “ins” and “outs,” is somewhat more complicated. Bear in mind we are not talking about salvation here. No amount of spiritual discipline can add or subtract anything from the completed work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection. As my brother says, “That boat has sailed.” It is over and done, and whether you develop any spiritual discipline will not change what Jesus has done for you.
Kind of like weight control and being in a family. Whether you go anorexic and down to 75 pounds (34kg) or if you balloon up to 400 pounds (180kg) your DNA is still from your dad and mom, and no alteration in diet will change that. And my wife is going to love me (and I her) whether we weigh 75 or 400 pounds. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeM7o0IeMZk for BeautyBeyondBones’ amazing story.)
However, think a little more about this and you will realize that weight control can influence your familial relationships. Participation in family sports or games, going on trips together, staying up to the same time at night, even sex in a marriage can be affected adversely by unregulated weight, down or up. In the same way, patience can significantly affect one’s interaction with the Family over which Christ is the head (Colossians 1:15-20).
The most satisfying life with the family of God will come from exercising spiritual disciplines, patience being a major one (See January 8, 2017 and its sequels for more). A word search on “patience” in https://www.biblegateway.com reveals what the Bible teaches about this important discipline.
Please do not rush to your prayer closet and start praying, “Oh, God, give me patience.” We need to realize what we are asking for and how He will deliver on His promises! (James 4:3) When you ask Father for patience do not expect Him to suddenly wake you up to discover you can endure almost any trial. Just as in weight control, do not expect to go to bed one night and have Jesus “heal” you by adding or taking off pounds.
What He most likely will do is provide you with those circumstances that will call you to greater patience than what you had last time you needed it. I could have asked Father for strength to walk four miles the other day, and in special circumstances He has gifted people with unusual physical abilities (See 1 Kings 18:41-46). Instead, the Holy Spirit told me to stop walking so far in one day and work my way up to it. (He sounded a LOT like Anita that day!)
When the Wuhan Virus first became a global phenomenon, I was in full agreement with the idea that governments should step in to inform and guide their populations with what businesses could stay functioning and what type of meetings should be allowed.
But now we have more information than what we know to do with, and even if some of it is misinformation, it is time for our government to step back and stop trying to protect us from ourselves. As C.S.Lewis wrote so eloquently, “A tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometime be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment without end for they do so with the approval of their conscience.”
Thomas Jefferson echoed the same sentiment when he penned, “If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
And Ronald Reagan seemed to be on the same page when he said, “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where we have gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
- Have patience, first with government busybodies who are trying to protect us from ourselves.
- Have patience with our churches as they attempt to reopen the meeting buildings (which are not sanctuaries; those went away with the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD – – – And have patience with religionists who insist on calling their meeting buildings “sanctuaries.” 😉)
- Have patience with family, friends, and business associates as you all navigate when it will be best to resume previously normal activities.
- Have patience with leaders who may move slower than you prefer, or who may move faster than you deem wise.
- And have patience with me as I work my way up to four miles per day.