“But the fruit of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience …” ~ Galatians 5:22
Ever thought about what a “patient” belfry might look like, or be like? I haven’t … until today.
In thinking about it, though, you have to think about how an impatient belfry would be or appear, and then compare and contrast. You start thinking about patience itself. In my mind, patience is the ability to wait calmly for something to happen, something that you strongly hope for, but about which there may be precious little that you can do to bring it about. Basically, as we think back to our posts about the Serenity Prayer, patience is having the grace and serenity to accept things one cannot change, but which one really hopes will change at some point. It is accepting things as they are, but also the strength to continue waiting over time, hoping, maybe trying to influence the situation at times …
Now think again about belfries. Bell towers are built, in my view, for three main purposes: One, of course, is to hold a bell or bells that can be rung, and through this ringing hopefully enhance (by adding music, or serving as a call to either gather together, or as a call of warning or alert) the lives of those within earshot of those bells. The second is to stand tall as a symbol of inspiration for a community. And the third is to give a high vantage point to look out and see what is going on in the areas around the belfry.
If you have followed along in my posts, you know that part of the theme is to see belfries as kind of like people. We’re trying to chase “bats” out of our own belfries in life, but how about real belfries? Do they try to chase their own bats out? I guess not, at least most of them. Any self-respecting belfry would likely start ringing its bells as loudly as possible any time a bat came in and began dropping guano around, or attached its upside-down feet to the ceiling! But, to my knowledge belfries can’t, or at least don’t, ring their own bells … though there may be a few ghost stories out there in which they have.
Bats are internal irritations … belfries also face external problems. Consider the two belfries pictured below:
The first belfry has clearly been through a lot! Obviously bad weather and long ages have combined to crumble parts of its walls, and the rest of the walls are pockmarked in multiple places, yet the tower, and particularly the belfry where the bell is hanging, still stands, its cross still in place. Patience.
The second belfry has also been around a long time, and has endured even greater catastrophe: its church is almost completely gone! Destroyed, except for parts of two walls, which are the only clues left of what once stood aside this lonely bell tower. Yet the bell tower still stands, and the description I read says that the bell can still ring! Patience.
Why does God allow bad and hurtful things to happen in this world?
Have you ever said things like, “Why, God?! Why are you letting this go on?!?” Or, “Why do you hate me so much, God?” Or, how about, “Why don’t you just let me die, God?! Why do I have to suffer like this?!” Some folks I know have said, “I don’t deserve to live anymore, God … please just kill me!”
It is very easy to look around our world now, seeing all the coldness and hatred and greed and selfishness, the killing and the scamming and the rioting, the murdering, the raping, the pure evil that we do to each other, to nature, to ourselves … and to momentarily lose all hope. It is also easy to, in the midst of any history course at any high school or college, see all the useless wars, all the holocausts and genocidal crusades, all the witch hunts, all the documented acts of cruelty that have occurred down through the centuries and shake your head about how we as a species have survived for so long. It is possible to wonder if there really is a God out there. Many folks have in fact concluded that there simply must not be a “Creator” or any kind of “God” out there at all. At least, not one who cares about humanity.
It would be hard to blame them.
But now imagine that there is a God … why DOES God seemingly wait so long to “set things right”? Why would a “loving” God allow so much evil and hatred and cruelty to continue, day after day, year after year, century after century?
In fact, let us consider several questions …
Why, barring early illness or fatal accident or causes of premature death, do we live longer than the age needed to have and to raise children of our own?
Why are older people usually wiser, more easy-going, and more giving than they were when they were younger?
Why are grandparents usually quicker to forgive than parents?
Why are we as a species “social” beings? Why do we all, to the extent that we can trust others, or unless mental illness prevents it, seek connections with others?
Why did Jesus say to the criminal hanging on a cross beside his, “Today you shall be with me in paradise”???
What if God really longs to put an end to evil and to hatred, to selfishness and greed, to fear and hurt and pain?
But what if God cannot because it would flow against the long-term purpose and plan?
What if God doesn’t “cause” or “allow” evil and harmful and painful things to happen in the world?
What if bad things just happen, and it’s all about how the rest of us are to respond when they do?!?
Think about these things for a while, and see what you might come up with.
My belief is that there most certainly is a Creator, and that this Creator does care, and IS still involved with us. But I believe that God, the Creator, is also the most incredibly patient being there is.
Why do I say this? Because I believe the facts, and the answers to all of the questions above, point to this conclusion. God is being infinitely patient with us humans. You may ask, ‘well, what is He/She waiting for?’ And I would answer, it certainly isn’t for the time when all of us will be perfect!
I believe there are two things for which God waits:
1) For ALL of us to realize our need of paying the debt and the penalty every one of us owes to our Creator, a debt and penalty which God alone can pay, and already has; to then humble ourselves, and to admit to God our utter dependence on the grace and forgiveness that only God can bestow; to then turn our hearts toward becoming as much like Christ as possible, relying completely on the Spirit of God to create that change in us. As we see with what Jesus said to the guy hanging next to him, this moment, this decision, can happen right up to the point of one’s death. So if you’ve already made that decision, keep hoping and trying to influence, as God does, patiently!
2) For ALL of us to learn that there will never be an answer as to why pain and evil happen in this world. That is not a question we will ever receive the complete answer to on this side of the grave. We ask, “why?” a lot; we rarely, if ever, get a satisfying answer, do we. Rather, we are to learn that the big key lies in how we respond when we come in contact with others who suffer, or when we learn of injustice around us. The response is to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves”. Thus, the big goal when it comes to bad things happening in our world is to learn to better come together as a community, to forgive one another, to feed one another, to listen to one another, to be there for each other, to teach one another, to speak up and to act to correct oppression and wrongs, to be merciful to those who are in pain, who have been hurt, and who have hurt others.
These are my views of things.
The fruit of God’s Spirit is … patience.
My love to you all.
Craig Meek, M.D.