Being Human – Lord Give Me Patience – NOW
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Galatians 5:22 – 23. Why Patience is one of the most important gifts you can give another. Check out Rasaan Bourke, Bill Ucker and the First Presbyterian Church Choir.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he lists patience as the fourth most important virtue for us to cultivate as human beings. This is something I have yet to master; much less become proficient in, but I can tell you it’s on my bucket list of things I’d like to achieve in my lifetime. Maybe it’s as Elizabeth Taylor put it, “It’s strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time the greater our capacity for waiting.” My question is at what age does this actually happen?
Because I’m much more in tune with this quote by Bill McGlashen: “Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not the one in front of you.” How true for me! I’m also aware that when I’ve actually prayed for the gift of patience God tends to put me in situations, which require a lot of it. For example “Lord teach me patience.” God: “Ok let’s see how you do in a traffic jam or on Delta flight from Tampa bound for New York waiting to land 12 hours after it took off.”
Take a moment and think about your life. Think about your daily grind, your routine, the way you take the subway to work every morning.
Think about the hundreds of people you pass, brush shoulders with, even push past. Think about the way you interact with people. It’s weird to think, but you interact with hundreds of people on a daily basis and don’t even realize it.
These interactions are small moments — tiny, seemingly insignificant seconds of your life. They have no weight to them, no purpose, no real meaning, yet they have significant power. These small moments all add up to the bigger sum of your life, creating opportunities and experiences that are missed or abused by the hurried and impatient.
What if you took five minutes to slow down and appreciate the people and the interactions around you? Took a moment to notice the sorrow on one woman’s face, or the pain in that man’s eyes sitting next to you on the bus?
What could your tiny interaction mean to them? We spend our lives waiting for the next big event to happen in our lives, the next destination, usually unaware of the moments being created around us.
Kent Nerburn, a former New York City cabby turned blogger, wrote a story – The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget that illustrates just how powerful some of these chance encounters with others can be if we simply pay attention:
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked… ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her… ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice… ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now.’ We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.
‘Nothing,’ I said.
‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light… Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
Patience isn’t something that you acquire overnight. It’s just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it. Every day you have to think on it. Every day you have to practice it. Everyday you have to remind yourself that life is not about you, but it does involve you. Everyday in every way we must practice what it means to be a mature human being made in the image and likeness of Christ himself. Amen