Saturday, February 2, 2008

JUICY FRUITY PATIENCE - Juicy Fruit of the Spirit - Part 5 - February 2, 2008

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with patience.
Colossians 3:8

“All good things come to he who waits.” “Patience is a virtue.” I wish that I had a nickel for every time a sagely adult offered such wisdom during my childhood—to spend on Juicy Fruit gum, of course. Yada! Yada! Yada! A lot of good those words did me when I was waiting for a new toy, a special event, a new pet (although I rarely asked permission for a pet; I just showed up at home with them), or a long awaited privilege. Patience remains an uncomfortable fit for me.

Nevertheless, I must remember that the Bible instructs me to clothe myself with patience. I think my patience is hanging askew on a rusty hanger in the very back of my closet, or maybe even wadded up under a pile of out of fashion shoes that I haven’t worn for ages.

In our spiritual closets, patience hangs out with the likes of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, godliness (2 Peter 1:5-6)), purity, understanding, (2 Corinthians 6:5-7), compassion, humility, meekness, forgiveness, harmony, thankfulness, wisdom, gratitude (Colossians 3:12-17), endurance, (Colossians 1:11), experience, hope, tribulation (Romans 5:305), suffering, affliction (James 5:10-11)—

—Whoa! Hold on there! I’m not comfortable at all with those last three garments: tribulation, suffering and affliction. Surely this is a mistake. I must have accidentally switched shopping bags with someone else while shopping. I would NEVER make such a purchase—even if it was on sale at 75% off!

Much as I hate it, patience is accessorized with suffering. The apostle Paul set an example for us to, “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) And, “know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” states James. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

Life is difficult and Paul further advises us to put on the armor of God, including a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, and a helmet of salvation. We are also to carry the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith (the word of God). All the while, we are to pray and be alert. I need to dig through that shoe pile so my feet can be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Sandwiched in among garments of grace, drab garments of suffering, and unwieldy armor are additional garments that Clinton Kelly and Stacy London (fashion hosts of “What Not to Wear”) would throw in the trash can: anger (Colossians 3:8), “repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.” (Galatians 5:19-21 The Message)

Recently I prepared a box of clothes for the Christian Center—which remained in the trunk of my car for several weeks. Occasionally I rescued something that I realized I could not live without. It’s painful to give up my comfy yet shrunken warm up pants and my oversized, time worn sweatshirts. I feel like me in them. But some garments simply must go; the same is true with the nasty rags that clutter my spiritual closet as well.

There’s also a pile in my closet of items in need of repair, plus a scarf that I started to crochet last winter. I don’t have much patience for mending or finishing difficult projects, but I really do need to get my closet in order.

I’ll need to dress myself in patience for the task. Patience does not drape loosely on my form, moving only when fluffed by my hand or a breeze. Practicing patience involves “concentrated strength,” said Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I’d better don my bib overalls of self-discipline, too!

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