Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Patient and impatient waiting

Patience is a virtue. We wait for God's good time to give us wisdom. Many spiritual traditions are built around silent waiting - sitting in stillness with God and with others, being ready for his calling to speak and to act. I practised that discipline through Quaker worship for many years. It's a powerful discipline - hard work but at its best it can carry a deep experience of God's presence and his will.

This morning's reading in my daily prayer podcast, Pray as you go, which follows the Roman Catholic daily lectionary, comes from Psalm 40. It begins "I waited patiently", and goes on to talk of being called by God to speak in the 'great congregation' of the people.

But sometimes impatience is called for. Yesterday, the Church of England consecrated its first female bishop - something wonderful to see, but that should have happened many years ago. It was right for the campaigners for women priests and bishops in the Church of England to be impatient.

And today is Holocaust Memorial Day. 70 years ago, the death camp at Auschwitz was liberated by Russian soldiers. Nobody in that camp should have had to wait a single day more - the earlier it had been liberated, the more lives would have been saved. Impatience was right in that case too.

The scriptures are full of impatience when faced with injustice - "how long, O Lord?" (Psalm 13). It's a legitimate emotion, one that comes from the heart. But it's a generous emotion, not for one's own sake but for that of others.

Patience in our own case, waiting for inspiration or calling. Impatience in the face of injustice. That is surely the way to which we are called.

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