Many of you have no doubt heard the prayer, “Give me patience, Lord, and give it to me now!” We would shorten God’s process of transforming our sinful character – after all, we want to be “perfect” as soon as possible.
Perhaps you have already noticed my emphasis on what we want, what we expect, as opposed to surrendering fully to God’s time and God’s plan for our lives.
In 2 Corinthians 2.18 (NRSV), St Paul writes, “But we all, with unveiled face (i.e., able to see Christ), beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In this verse, Paul acknowledges the process of change “from glory to glory.” A bit later (2 Corinthians 5.17-19; NRSV), Paul speaks of the end or the goal of this transformation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
I expect many of us believe this process to be complete long before it is. Our failures, our transgressions, reveal this truth along with our need for patience, our need to surrender our own desires and expectations – to wait upon the Lord. I appreciate what Tielhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, theologian, paleontologist, philosopher and poet, has to say about this process. May this become our prayer.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability - and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually - let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.