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Value of Patience by Rev. Christine Emmerling DD, 3/17/2024

We’re continuing with the theme for Lent, on our core values. Today I’ll be speaking on the Value of Patience. The dictionary defines patience as the following: The will or ability to wait or endure without complaint. As steadiness, endurance, or perseverance in the performance of a task. I also think of patience as tolerant, non-judging, kind, caring, calm, relaxed, and having self-control.

The opposite of patience is being quick to anger and loss of control. Waiting has become almost uncivilized in this era of hyper-speed. People standing in line and fuming over some minor inconvenience. Agitated over the response time of the fastest computers. Blowups with family members at home, honking horns in traffic jams, angry confrontations in public places, the stampede to get off airplanes, the cursing at automated message systems, the lack of etiquette – all of these and many other societal problems can be traced back to being inpatient.

A habit of being inpatient can also put stresses on the body. Our whole-body tenses up, our breathing becomes shallow, and our pulse and blood pressure rise. When repeatedly held for long periods can lead to disease or worse. In Proverbs 14:29 we are told, "Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly."

The Bible has Patience as one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” In some translations the word longsuffering is used in place of patience.

I’m reminded of the Bible story of Jacob who later had his name changed to Israel. Jacob after shrewdly taking his brother’s birthright inheritance, went away to his uncle’s household. For wages Jacob was offered to choose one of the two daughters Leah or Rachel to wed. He chose the younger daughter the beautiful Rachel. The father contracted with Jacob to work seven years before he could marry Rachel. He loved Rachel and worked hard during those seven years. When the time came to marry the father switched the sisters, and Jacob had married the elder sister Leah. Then he was told he had to work another seven years to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob fulfilled another seven years of work and married his beloved Rachel. Now this was having patience.

The following is a Zen story: Conquer haste, the Zen masters say. The writer Joe Hyams, author of Zen in the Martial Arts, describes how he learned that lesson in a meeting with the master Bong Soo Han: The two were having tea when a letter arrived from the teacher’s family in Korea. Hyams says, Knowing he had been eagerly anticipating the letter, I paused in our conversation, expecting him to tear open the envelope and hastily scan the contents. Instead, he put the letter aside, turned to me, and continued our conversation. The following day I remarked on his self-control, saying that I would have read the letter at once.

He replied, I did what I would have done had I been alone. I put the letter aside until I had conquered haste. Then when I set my hand to it, I opened it as though it were something precious. I puzzled over this comment a moment, knowing he meant it as a lesson for me. Finally, I said I didn’t understand what such patience led to. It leads to this, he said, "Those who are patient in the trivial things in life have the same mastery in great and important things."

The following is an ancient story from the Jewish Talmud: It tells about the time two men made a bet whether Hillel, the wise and famous rabbi, could be made to lose his patience. One of the men waited until late Friday – the sacred Sabbath night – and interrupted Hillel as he prepared for his day of rest. Three times the man knocked at Hillel’s door, and each time he asked a silly, if not trivial, question. And yet each time, Hillel respected both the questioner and the question with a worthy answer. This was just too much for the man to bear, and at last he blurted out that Hillel’s patience had just cost him a large sum of money. Again, the rabbi calmly answered that the value of patience was worth much, much more than any worldly sum.

The great Sufi mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan, describes the cross as a symbol of patience: “The vertical line indicates activity, the horizontal line control.” Calling patience the first and last lesson, he notes that in reality this virtue always wins something great, even when to all appearance it loses.

The following are a few of Edgar Cayce readings on patience:

1. Patience doesn’t mean patience in the sense of just submissiveness, or just being quiet – but an active patience, conscious of being patient with self and with others. Force self to do some unpleasant things that it hasn’t wanted to do once in a while, and like it!

2. patience is meekness in action, pureness in heart.

3. Patience the most beautiful of all virtues and the least understood. Remember, it is one of the phases or dimensions through which thy soul may catch the greatest and more beautiful glimpse of the Creator.

I’ve been sharing about patience with others and circumstances, but there is the patience with our own self which is probably the most challenging. We’re really most critical with our self. Our being critical and judging of others is only a reflection of what is going on within us all the time. How often do we praise our self. Gee Christine that was a great job you did - its more like, there’s so much more to do.

Then there’s being patient with our spiritual unfoldment. I remember when first starting on my spiritual journey. I was so excited to learn about so many things, but mostly it was about fixing my problems, healing, and getting things. It was about what it could do for me. It was about gaining a sense of power over my life.

Then I desired to develop God consciousness as much I could in this lifetime going straight up the mountain top. I read and meditated for long periods; and had some exceptional experiences. As time went on, and the challenges came I learned to be more patient - to take the longer journey around the mountain to the top. To stop and smell the roses. And I will get there when the time is right for me. Yes, the challenges still come, but I see them as opportunities to exercise what I know of Principle.

Its really about the journey, being in the present moment which in patience takes away. We miss so much when we are focused on what’s ahead, or past experiences. Truly all we have is this very moment. Not too long ago, I saw the most beautiful rainbows, even a double rainbow. Now all these rainbows could have been missed if I wasn’t being present.

Silent meditation is also a practice in patience. Learning to sit quietly, and just waiting in a listening state of mind. Listening for what, the still small voice within, for the voice of God, to touch the hem of the garment of the Christ mind this is the great treasure and the pearl of great price.

Here are some ways I have applied patience:

1. When waiting in a long line, its an opportunity to send your love and see God in everyone including the workers; the line seems to go so much faster.

2. In a traffic jam or come across a rude driver, bless the drivers - send love; the drive is so much more pleasant.

3. When feeling creatively blocked to stop and do something mundane that requires little thought; inspiration begins to flow again.

M.J. Ryan in her book, The Power of Patience offers this suggestion: Thank others for being patient when you’ve been the one fumbling for the right change and holding everyone up. Write in your journal, in one column the things in your life that regularly trigger your lack of patience. In a second column, write an attitude or action that could help you slowdown in that situation. At the start of the day, make an intention to be more patient.

We can ask our self how is patience exhibited in my daily life? In this very moment am I calm and at peace?

I’ll close with the Serenity Prayer in its entirety by Reinhold Neibuhr:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next. Amen.

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