Speaking first of being stuck. Our one son is approaching 20 years of prison sentence time. That is stuck. But even more so because he has been stuck at a higher level of prison for 18 of those years. Stuck for reasons that I won’t get into here because the “reform” system is too broken. In all that time he has proactively battled to keep his mind, to not lose his identity in a dehumanizing system. It’s been hard and exhausting—on me. Oh, and him too. He credits prayer as a big factor here to get him through.
Finally he’s been transferred to a “correctional” institution. He has responsibilities—which means he has freedoms. When someone is sentenced to criminal time what they lose in their freedom is responsibility for their own lives because they weren’t able to handle their own responsibilities for their own life when they had freedom. Freedom always means responsibility.
So in this new freedom while still stuck serving time, our son is a rush of emotions and thinking. He is remembering the exact moment when he decided how to “make it” through the system. He is remembering the many little moments when God was near him, even though in those moments he would have said God was far from him. He is full of gratefulness, the kind of gratefulness that is overwhelming because there is vulnerability involved realizing that he is worthy of this good thing. Yes, it is still prison but it is a better thing and God has brought him through it all to bring him to this point. To this point where he can actually think of a future.
It is rare when we can be in a moment and realize that even though we were overwhelmingly stuck and God seemed to be far away, inactive, ignoring you, or hating on you that God was never any of that and we were actually moving forward in that stuckness. Something was always happening even though you didn’t know it. Even though you didn’t see it. Even though you didn’t feel it.
If only we could remember these rare moments when we feel stuck the next time.
If only we could remember these rare moments instead of our impatience overtaking us because we can’t control the outcome.
If we could remember these rare moments (or they may be more common than you realized once you start thinking/journaling them), maybe these rare moments can help us become more patient in our lives? Maybe we can blame God less when the time table of our lives is not on the same trajectory as God’s. Because we are learning to trust God more and more because these rare moments show us that God does know what he is doing.
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:8-9.
When it all comes down to it, it is still hard to trust God. A stumbling block in this brave life.
From my Lent reading in Liturgy of the Ordinary:
God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful. My friend Steven, the farmer-prophet, reminds me that a fallow field is never dormant. As dirt sits waiting for things to be planted and grown, there is work being done invisibly and silently. Microorganisms are breeding, moving, and eating. Wind and sun and fungi and insects are dancing a delicate dance that leavens the soil, making it richer and better, readying it for planting.
Robert Wilken highlights the relationship between patience and hope in his exploration of the early church father Tertullian.
The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude but hope. To be impatient…is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that is God’s doing, and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipated of the good to come.
Even now as we wait, God is bringing the kingdom that will one day be fully known. We can be as patient as a fallow field because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted. –Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 111
God can be trusted. Even at a Level 5 maximum security prison. Even with what is going on in your life.
Note: Tertullian agrees with me. Or I agree with the early church father. To be impatient is to live without hope. Patience is one of the vulnerable fruits of the Spirit. In reality we want something to be over with so we are impatient while in the tension of being stuck. But it is in the vulnerability of patience that we do have hope that God has this. Because we have come to know we can trust God.
A brave life needs a bit of vulnerability. The two go together. A brave life trusts God to do what he says and vulnerably believes that. Even when it is not on your time table. Having patience is not stupid. It is not you being stupid and giving God the easy answer out on why he is so silent or so distant or so slow.
Trust God that even in your stuckness, things are happening. The fallow ground is alive with things happening.
(Photo credit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digging-deep-fallow-ground-sandra-cerda/)