But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12
God expects me to be patient with other people because God is patient with me. This is an attribute greatly lacking in people today, especially me. Because of the abuse and neglect of my childhood, and its influence upon the lifestyle I chose to live, consideration of another person was not my concern. I did not trust people and as an adolescent child, I learned how to hate. These emotions greatly affected my life.
I have never had a close friend. There were a few people over the course of my life, which I grew to know very well, but people will always let you down. None of us are perfect. As hard and calloused as I had become, God still saw something good in me. And Gods process of developing “that something” is not easily learned.
My first lesson in patience was the many different ways and times that God revealed Himself to me. During the darkest times of my life, God would do something to capture my attention. Its beyond belief now, I know that God is… You can argue in disagreement, but it’s impossible to argue with conviction.
It was very hard for me to believe that God could love someone like me, but this is what makes God unique. God, who is love, is a depth and a height, beyond our natural reasoning. Hence the account of man’s redemption. Your salvation will take your lifetime. Only God can recreate a lost humanity anew. And it’s through this process of life-transformation, that Gods sovereignty is made known. We, who are evil, are saved by God, for God to display His greatness. Patience lesson #1.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
The second lesson was my wife, Shannon. A flower bruised but not broken, she has bent to the winds of this life only to stand tall in the radiant beauty of a woman in love. Unique in way others aspire to be, always upset with the perceived failure of her best. My wife has a gift that I could only hope might one day be realized in me. Her compassion for other people convicts me.
God has brought to me a woman who shows her love by an unconditional acceptance of me, and by putting up with the unreasonable person I can often be. Shannon’s willingness to accept me has proven the ideal of love that my life’s experience never gave me the opportunity to realize. And by this, God has shown me His love through the only person I have come to appreciate. If I can learn how to love another person, I can also learn how to love God. God is the great teacher. Patience lesson #2.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27
The third lesson, and the most revealing, was taking into our home two young girls not our own. It was the winter of 2009. February is a very cold month in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We knew our neighbor only very casually. Her electricity had been turned off and an eviction notice taped to her front door. She mentioned to Shannon that she wanted to go to an Eagles concert in Utah that weekend by airplane, and Shannon suggested this should not be a priority. She didn’t listen. After she left, I went to her residence and moved her daughter’s mattresses to a spare room in our home. We did not hear from their mother for a week. The stupid things selfish people do!
For several months, an 11 year old and a 15 year old lived with us. Every few weeks, we would get a phone call from their mother. Then one day, they were gone. Two months later, there was a knock on the door. The sister of the mother of the two young girls hadn’t seen her sister in several days. She did not have a job and they hadn’t eaten in two days. After hearing her story, my wife left with her. I thought she went to buy some groceries and give her some money. How wrong I was. An hour later, in comes my wife with the sister, who was seven months pregnant and her three year old son, and the two girls with all of their clothes. I looked at Shannon in surprise, and she replied, “What else could I do?” They too, had been evicted. When given the opportunity, God will shock you.
Not long after, we became the legal guardians of these two young girls. I never wanted children, but Gods purpose is bigger than our own. I have often thought why did God bring this upon Shannon and me, and after a year and a half, I’m beginning to understand. These girls have never had discipline, a good example or a normal life. Much like mine. Shannon and I have given to these girls everything they need along with some much needed stability. But the more we give, do I realize just how little they appreciate. And it hurts. What we have gone through during this time has been extremely irritating and very costly. We have given up our lives to help these girls, and it’s either their youth that doesn’t understand or their selfishness that could care less.
As I meditate on these events, I now realize what God goes through when dealing with me. A little dose of reality goes a long way. God’s example is in Jesus giving up His life, to pay a debt He didn’t owe, for a people who hated Him. What we do for others, who are unable to do for themselves, defines our Christian witness.
Characters lessons are hard learned. I have, on several occasions, wanted to contact Child Protective Services when the oldest child was caught doing drugs, drinking alcohol and having sex. Unruly child! But then, God reminds me of His patience with me. The unruly child I have been. Patience lesson #3