The Need for Patience
This week in the Gospel, we are told of an orchard owner who comes to check on how things are going. The fig tree has produced no fruit yet. And it’s been 3 years. But the gardener urges patience. The owner then leaves, but will return to see if the tree bears fruit.
In the first reading, Moses is called by God, but he has yet to figure out what his mission might entail. He goes to see the burning bush that is not being consumed, and God reveals His plan to send Him to the Israelites to lead them out of captivity in Egypt. But Moses is understandably confused as to how all this will happen.
Both the readings stress the importance of patience. And at least for me, that can be one of the most challenging things in life as we deal with ourselves and other people.
So how then can we be patient or work on this?
I think for me, a few things help.
For one, we can pray. As I preached on last week, life deals us slumps – and in those tough times, it’s important we turn to God. The Israelites were in captivity for years, but it did not mean God was silent or ignoring them. When we look to the Cross we are reminded of how God is so patient; we kill Him, and yet He dies because He sees the good in us, not just the evil. God will give us the strength to endure our trials.
Second, we have to be honest with a situation and say “is this the best thing for me or the other person?” I was recently reminded of this as I am considering welcoming a new dog having lost Kirby just over 6 months ago. I’ve been checking with rescue groups and breeders, but am in a little bit of a tough situation as the townhome I live in that is our rectory is great; we just can’t have fences there which means I need a dog that is comfortable going out at all times on a leash. A breeder got in touch with me who seemed to have a perfect dog. His name is Vinny, a name I love. He’s a little older and was house trained at 7 months of age from a liter last summer. I met him and we got along great. So I got new toys and a crate for the house and office for him when I couldn’t be at home to give him free roam as young pups typically need that security, new leashes and treats and it seemed like a good fit. But unfortunately while Vinny was very loving towards me, he was quite nervous and scared. I had a very hard time getting him to set foot in the office. He also had a few accidents something that never happened before when he was with his breeder living in her home. Of course I affirmed him and told him not to worry about things and the accidents didn’t bother me. But in talking to his breeder who is also an expert dog trainer, we both felt he was pretty stressed. When she came over and worked with him and saw his temperament, we both felt he needed to go back home with “mom” and be with his brothers and probably would do better in a fenced yard. Do I want a large dog at the house? Indeed I long for the day a large golden retriever or Pyrenees or other large dog is waiting for me on the couch when I get home. And were Vinny a rescue, I’d probably still have him at the house. But it was important for him to find a situation where he’d thrive, so as tough as it was I had to put away the new dog toys for the time being as he happily went home with his “mom” Joy. Sometimes something just isn’t working out and we want it to. A job, a relationship, a move. We can’t fall in love with the idea of being in love, we have to be in love. And that’s why when we really want something when we get what we want, we have to always assess that it’s working. I truly believe a wonderful dog will enter my life this year. It just requires patience in finding the right fit.
Third, the support of others is so important. Moses will protest to God that he’s a lousy speaker so Pharaoh won’t listen to him; God’s answer will be Aaron who will do the speaking. Jesus has the apostles. The owner of the orchard in the Gospel has the gardener. The point is we need to turn to others for advice and counsel. Everyone of course loved pictures of Vinny that I posted and shared; but only one person, his trainer, saw in the photos that he was a little stressed. We need people who won’t be just cheerleaders in our lives, but will truly help us bear fruit – people we can turn to to pray with, to listen to us, and who will give us the tools we need to get through life’s ups and downs.
Fourth, we have to remember it takes time to get to where we want to go. When you go on a plan to lose weight or get in shape, you don’t weigh yourself daily. Your weight will go up and down a bit, but you realize getting in physical shape takes time. The same is true spiritually. We set out to improve and have setbacks. We think we’ve overcome something and it happens again. Remember, God’s mercy is always there.
Fifth, sometimes God says “no.” We may pray for something, want something to happen, but it could be that God doesn’t give us the answer we want. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. Far from it. If we look back on our lives, we might find that the times we heard “no” ultimately led us to something that brought far more joy and happiness.
Lastly, with others it’s so important to be patient too. We all have fruitless fig tress in our families, amongst our friends. But don’t lose hope. Continue to pray for them, or pray with them, set a good example for them, try to evangelize to them when you’re able, and you just might be surprised at the fruit that comes when you least expect it.
Patience is perhaps one of the hardest things to deal with in our lives, but when we master it, what we’ll find is that what awaits for us and others is more than we could have ever hoped for. So see the big picture, and realized that while things don’t happen overnight, God has great plans for you – sometimes they just take time to be realized, but realize that while you might not always know where God is leading you, ultimately when you trust and do things by His timeline and not your own, the end result will be something truly amazing.
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