August 16, 2020
Love is patient ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4
Quietly endure, silently suffer, and patiently wait. -Martin Luther King Jr.
At the end of July, I drove with our daughter Andie back to Sacramento where she is working. We took a side trip to the Caesar Chavez National Monument, one of the most deeply peaceful places I have ever been, and we made a quick trip to Sequoia National Park. I wanted to see some massive sequoias and Andie wanted to get to Sacramento, so we were in a hurry.
We did spend some quality time in the Giant Forest with trees that seemed to reach endlessly into the skies. I hugged a few trees that day, but after saying hello and thank you to the sequoias Andie and I were on a mission to get to Sacramento as fast as we could drive.
Our little Nissan Versa twisted and turned down the mountain road. Our car rounded a sharp turn and I saw a barrage of signs along the side of the road, “Road Work Ahead,” “Be Prepared to Stop,” and “Expect long delays.”
Long delays? We need to get to Sacramento. We are in a hurry. I moaned inside and Andie said, “Are you kidding me, Dad? How long are we going to have to wait?”
We stopped and the flagger tapped on our window, “Get out and stretch your legs if you want. It’s gunna be awhile.”
How long does it take for a giant sequoia to grow over 300 feet tall? Is a tree patient or in a hurry? Where do they have to go? For that matter, why are we in such a hurry?
In 1 Corinthians Paul says love is patient. “Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion and/or life is merely about enforcing laws and requirements,” writes Father Richard Rohr. Our God or our Creator is working through history in a way that is “both evolutionary and positive.” It takes a leap of faith and patience to trust that we are evolving. Rohr writes that Jesus leans heavily on the language of growth and development when speaking of the Kingdom. “He uses metaphors of the seed, the maturing ear of corn, weeds and wheat growing together, and yeast rising. His parables are about finding, discovering, being surprised, changing roles and status. They are always about something new and good coming into being.” This is the Good News, but it takes so much time!
The world is pregnant with the seeds of God’s love, joy, and peace. Do we actively and patiently nurture the seeds of God’s grace? Do we take time to prepare the soil so that we, our communities, and our nations can grow and flourish?
The Giant Sequoias will grow two feet in height every year for their first fifty to one hundred years, and they can grow over 30 stories tall, that’s over 300 feet, the length of a football field. They can live 2,000 to 3,000 years. They know something about patience, peace, and waiting. In the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park all those mammoth trees stand in peaceful silence along side one another. It’s awe inspiring.
I asked the flagger, “How long are we going to have to wait?” “Maybe 20, 30 minutes,” she said. I groaned. “How can we wait that long?”
As people of faith, we plant tiny seeds and by the grace of God, those seeds mature into seedlings, saplings, and beautiful mature trees. It always takes a long time for a tree to grow. As Jean de La Fontaine wrote, “Patience and time do more than strength or passion.”
It takes time for a new idea to take hold. It took time for people to realize that the earth is not the center of the universe. It takes time to see with new eyes. It takes time for humanity to realize how much we need each other and how sacred all of creation is. It takes time for justice to take root.
One woman refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She plants a seed that leads to a movement. A student refuses to be drafted into an unjust war. Young students refuse to give up their seats at a white’s only Woolworth lunch counter. Young kids stand up and demand change and reform after one more mass shooting in our public schools. A community rises up to protest the death of one more unarmed black man. How quickly do things change? Sequoias slowly grow in the soil of time. Is justice any different?
“Patience is a virtue that says to stay the course,” says Sister Joan Chittister. Much like the sequoias, people grow slowly. “It takes time for all of us to learn to live together as mature human beings.” Jesus offers a counter-intuitive message of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and radical inclusion. As Chittister writes, “It takes time for the message to grow on us. And the soul grows too, it seems, but only an inch at a time.”
As people of faith we actively plant seeds of peace, justice, and hope but are we prepared for how long it might take for those seeds to bear fruit? Do we cultivate and value patience? Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Quietly endure, silently suffer, and patiently wait.”
Love is patient. Be prepared to stop. Expect long delays. But, stay the course and actively wait.
The flagger smiled and waved at me and Andie and turned her sign from red to green. The wait was worth it.
Blessings, peace, and patience,