June 23, 2009
I Need Patience ... Now!
1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 "Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (NIV).
Friend To Friend
Our daughter, who is expecting our third grandchild in July, has begun to battle back pain since her "little man" began kicking. (Yes, it is a boy and I think soccer is definitely in his future.) In frustration, she recently complained, "Mom, he is sitting on my nerve!" My response was not particularly encouraging, "Honey, believe me when I say that it won't be the last time."
Sandpaper people can definitely get on our last nerve, which is why God's plan for dealing with these difficult people includes setting aside part of our emotional energy to cover their faults and allow for their weaknesses. In other words, we must learn and choose to be patient.
The apostle Paul is clear in his explanation of how we should treat others, even those people who rub us the wrong way, the sandpaper people. We are called to "admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and be patient with all men" 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NAS).
Sandpaper people are often unruly, meaning that they are frequently careless or out of line in their behavior. The word, "unruly" applies to soldiers who refuse to follow orders, insisting on doing things their own way. Sound familiar? It is the motto of every respectable sandpaper person. Patience lovingly corrects and points out the right way but sandpaper people tend to give up easily, feeding the failure that has become a familiar companion, training their feeble hearts to despair while persuading their fragile spirits to quit. Patience comforts these hard to love people, refusing to give up on them when everyone else has walked away. The "weak" ones are those who are weak in their faith -- the baby Christians. New believers awkwardly stumble through their first steps into the world of Christianity and are often perceived to be "rough around the edges." Patience not only reassures these frightened little lambs that they belong, but also offers to walk with them until they grow stronger and their path is sure.
His name was Sam. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him. I was standing at the door of my second grade classroom, anxiously waiting to greet the thirty students who had been assigned to me for nine months. Though Sam was smaller than the other children, he walked with the earned confidence of one who has seen more than he should have seen at such a young age. What he lacked in size, he more than made up for in personality and attitude. He was a blatant flirt, and I was a goner as soon as he gazed up at me with strikingly blue eyes that tripped my heart. When he flashed two cavernous dimples, I was a goner. I will never forget his words. They broke my heart. "My name is Sam. I am dumb and stupid and I can't do anything right. I get mad real easy and like to break things. I just thought you should know."
It took only a few minutes for Sam to begin what I suspected was his usual attempt to prove his words true as he swept through the quickly filling classroom, destruction in his hands. Papers were ripped and tossed aside. Children shrank away from his now scowling face, fear in their eyes. When a little girl laughed, Sam thought she was laughing at him and knocked her to the floor. I had seen enough. Taking Sam by the arm, I marched him out of the room and down the hall. He was not surprised or particularly concerned. It seemed to be very familiar territory - but what came next wasn't.
Looking for a place to sit, I stopped in front of a bench, pulled him into my arms and held onto him for dear life. "Sam, it is wrong to tell a lie," I whispered. Stunned, he drew back to ask, "What do you mean? I didn't tell no lie." Cupping his freckled face in my hands, I whispered, "Yes, you did. You said you were dumb and stupid and couldn't do anything right. That is a lie. I don't know who told you that and I don't care. It's not true -- is it, Sam?" His eyes filled with tears -- and a tiny ray of unfamiliar hope appeared. It was enough. Slowly, he shook his head, a watery smile creeping across his now softening face. "Nope! I reckon it ain't." Together, we walked back to the classroom and to a new beginning for one little sandpaper person.
That year, I taught Sam and he taught me. I am not certain who learned the most but this I do know - the more we love, the more patience we will have. And the more patience we have, the more we will love. I often wonder just how many "Sams" are waiting for someone -- anyone -- who will choose to unleash the power of patience and by doing so, unleash the power of love as well.
Father, forgive me for being impatient with others -- especially the ones who rub me the wrong way. I know You have allowed each one of those sandpaper people to cross my path for a reason. Please help me see them as You see them, loved and chosen. I want my actions to point them to You and to an acceptance that can only come from You. Father, make it clear to my heart when I am the sandpaper person and help me to control my emotions and my words. Thank You for loving me and for the privilege of loving others through You.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
Read the following verses and record them in your journal. In your own words, explain each verse as it applies to your life. Make a list of three "sandpaper people" in your life and pray these verses for each one.
Proverbs 14:29 "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly."
Psalm 37:7 "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes."
1 Timothy 1:16 "But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."
More From The Girls
My prayer for patience usually concludes with something like "and Lord, I need it right now!" By nature, I am not a very patient person. I tend to be a perfectionist and expect people to do what they are supposed to do, according to Mary. The "sandpaper people" concept is one I have dealt with for years. I can honestly say that I see some growth and progress but it has come with a price. I am slowly learning to choose love over judgment, grace over retribution and forgiveness over retaliation. Sometimes it is so hard to say and do the right thing when someone says or does something that drives me crazy or makes me angry. So I keep praying and keep asking God to guard my mouth and my heart and make me more patient.
Looking for a bible study that is practical and biblically based? Check out Mary's online bible study, Light for the Journey.
Girlfriends in God
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Matthews, NC 28106