If You Prayed For Patience…

patienceI was thinking about that old bumper sticker yesterday — the one that said, “IF YOU PRAYED FOR PATIENCE TODAY, I’M YOUR ANSWER.” I was thinking about the bumper sticker as I sat in a plane at a gate in Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Odd, random, little thought as I sat there considering the circumstances I was facing.

I was leaving Arizona (or at least attempting to leave) after spending four days with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter who had just moved to the Phoenix area to assume new and exciting ministry opportunities. In the move, I re-injured my back (age does take its toll). I managed to get through the moving duties, but my gait was appreciably affected. One side of my waist points northward, the other south. And the prospect of air travel didn’t exactly promise a comfortable trip.

After rising early (you don’t totally acclimate to a different time zone in four days), I made it to the airport on time (way early by most standards, but that’s another story). As I waited to board I began some reading I had been putting off, to prepare for a Sunday School class I was to teach on the weekend. I should have read these two chapters earlier, but I was employing justifiable procrastination. The topic of the two chapters: the sin of anger. I wasn’t looking forward to digesting them.

I was on track to finish the first chapter by the time the plane was scheduled to pull away from the gate, and planned to leave the second chapter until I got home later (justifiable procrastination again). Then came the announcement that my destination was fogged in.  We were going to have to wait on the plane, at the gate and hope that the fog lifted.


rs-jerry-bridges2I generally like to be in control of things and a delay like this was frustrating my plans. In all honesty, I have to admit, this would ordinarily make me at least mildly upset and more likely angry. But God had a different plan that started when I sat down in the gate lobby and began reading my two chapters in Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. God was pointing out to me that I was not in control, but I had a choice to make: I could be impatient, frustrated, and angry or I could trust God’s sovereignty in the situation and follow His divine plan as He rolled it out for me. I chose the latter, with surprising results (although knowing God, they should not have surprised me).

First, as I boarded the plane, I picked up a pillow (something I don’t usually do, even when my back aches). So, with what would turn out to be the ample time God provided as I sat there on the plane, I opened the book and continued to read and re-read my two chapters, in preparation for my class. Examples and illustrations began coming to me with great clarity.

I normally put my notes for my classes, including first drafts, directly into my laptop, but the battery power was low (another potential annoyance I chose to ignore), but I did have a pad of paper. So I began roughing out a draft of my notes. I was able to organize my illustrations and had a good first draft to enter into my laptop when I got home later. What a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction; two sensations I had not expected to feel when I first heard about our delay.

With the draft of my notes completed, my attention turned to the passengers around me. The plane was not full. The people immediately around me were reading, visibly agitated at the delay, talking in frustrated tones to associates and loved ones on their cell phones, bemoaning the fact that they were sitting here, “stuck on the ground” like the line in the old Gordon Lightfoot song. I realized God was prompting me to pray for these people. I took the gift of the extra time to pray for them, for my family, recently replanted in Phoenix, and for the class I would be teaching this weekend at church. Another sense of accomplishment came over me. This one felt like I had just faithfully discharged a duty assigned me by a superior (in this case, God).

It seemed that, as the book had suggested, the choice not to get angry made all the difference. The New King James Version of James 1:20 says, “…for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I could have been sitting there, fuming and in pain, with no productive result to show for my time, but instead, by heeding that small, quiet voice of God, I was able to leverage my time in a fashion I don’t always follow, given my penchant for procrastination. I was able to respond to the delay with God’s righteous peace rather than my own pain and frustration. We pulled away from the gate exactly two hours later than scheduled; late by the airline’s standards, but right on time by God’s!

God Bless and Grace 2 U.


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