Sometimes in the early morning over coffee, I turn on my computer and descend into Facebook – attempting to avoid bitterness and stupidity and unfriending people as I go (if you’re still one of those folks who posts political stuff on FB with the comment “I can’t believe this” or “How low can we go?!”, you should know nobody does that anymore) – I often come across simple quiet questions posted from my university. I went to Moody, a theology school in Chicago (although the founder, the famous evangelist D.L. Moody preferred to call it a “Bible School”; theology school I’m guessing sounding too pompous). He was a simpler man (not meaning unintelligent, as people think these days, but humble as it was originally intended. Humility, now there’s a forgotten trait—); and from simple men come the great reformations and revivals. How many simple men can you name?
As I was going down, in between “Can you believe XXX said XXX” – UNFRIEND; and “Are people still stupid enough to think XXX” – UNFRIEND; I came across the post from Moody, “What is the Lord teaching you today?”
Our God works more with questions than He does with answers; and this question made me think.
Every night I read devotions to my little boy. He’s six, and we’ve been doing it for – well for six years. 2190 nights of devotions, give or take a few for trips or long overnight flights on airplanes or when somebody is sick. Repetition; that is the thing they never tell you about raising a child. Adults like variety; like exotic things and changing environments and new ideas. Raising a child is all about repetitiveness and constancy. I once had a gardener in Mali who was not the sharpest; one day I came home and noticed the hedges had grown out of control a few weeks after pruning. “You must trim the hedges again,” I told him. He looked at me quizzically, “But I did that.” Raising a child is like being a gardener; the same things over and over and over again until they take the form that you feel they should. The story of creation. The Exodus and the Judges and the Kings – Jesus and the apostles. And again to creation. Each time his little mind picking up on something more, something new, something different. A new truth as he awakens into rationality. Three feedings a day (my wife does most of this); a bath. Play. Reading a book. Waking up. Glass of milk. Tennis practice, swimming practice, piano practice, bicycle practice. He needs the consistency; it’s what will give him his sense of security, the concrete foundation from which he will surge into the world.
“You can have roots and wings,” a famous movie quote goes. You must have roots in order to have wings – better said.
Patience. That is the answer I came up with. From that question above. Patience is what I’m learning. That one is hard – isn’t it? We become bored; almost six years in the poverty of West Africa has made me itch a little (ok, let’s be honest, its stifling). We chafe at the routine. The ordinary. The tedious. That is part of human nature. We want freedom before we can handle it; we want money before we are responsible for it; we want power before we understand it. We want success – in whatever we are doing – before having the character and stamina to survive it.
Patience. I read a lot – and much of what I read are books from banned authors. So many of them went to jail. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Natan Sharansky; Nelson Mandela; Yeonmi Park (whose whole country is a prison) – the years in jail polishing off their immaturity with that worst hardest sandpaper of all – waiting to be set free, perhaps patiently but I’m guessing often also despairing. I often wonder how they survived; and especially reading Solzhenitsyn and his accounts of the Gulag I am shocked and stunned. And humbled. Because my impatience seems so mean compared to their breathtaking feats of endurance.
There you have it, perhaps less elaborate than what I usually write but something I’ve been thinking about. Life moves so slowly for so long and then accelerates in an epic surge. Or not. Best to be ready; to read and write and think and harden the cement under my little boy’s feet. Because patience is, often times, also a gift.