Cambridge terms run for 8 weeks, Thursday-Wednesday, and people here often keep track of where they are in term by marking the fact that we are ‘near the end of Week 1’ etc. There is also the notoriety of the ‘Week 5 blues’ – supposedly because most people are worn out by that point in the term, but find themselves only at the half-way point.
To make the way we relate to the different weeks a little more positive, Siân and I are naming the weeks by a different fruit of the spirit. This is now the end of Week Patience. Here are our reflections.
Siân – being patient with the day
I was not keen for the week of patience. Rachel and I let our friend Jess choose which week this week was going to be, and when she chose patience, we both flinched, aware of the challenge it would be for us both.
On the very first morning, I was already flagging. I was cross at having to do essay work, and frustrated with how slowly everything was going, and longing for the day to just get a move on. And Rachel said, ‘Siân, you have to be patient with the day.’ So I have been thinking about what it looks like to give the day space to unfold in its own time, and to give God time to work in it.
Sometimes that means enjoying moments just for what they are, rather than what they are building towards. Sometimes it means being prepared to work under a grey and gloomy sky for a few hours until the sun breaks through. Sometimes it means being confident that there will be hidden blessings to discover, but that the treasure hunt hasn’t quite started yet. Sometimes it means being willing to use every waking second, rather than shutting myself off from people when I get too tired, and embracing talks with friends rather than longing for bedtime. Sometimes it means creating a space where I wait expectantly for God to reveal his purpose to me, rather than falling over myself to fill every second with busyness.
And it is never less than trying to be patient with the people I love.
Part of that process has been noticing that when I am impatient, it is because I fall into the trap of thinking I would never be as annoying/inconvenient/inefficient as the other person is being at that moment. I have found it helpful, at those times, to remember moments when gentle friends have been incredibly patient with me, even as I faffed and flapped and distracted and broke promises; to remember that I, too, am a sinner. And that Jesus has every right to be impatient with me, and chooses love instead.
Rachel – being patient with the season of life
I have been thinking this week about the source of my impatience in a more general sense: in the sense of learning patience with ‘this stage of my life’.
With the uncertainty of next year, and not knowing how things will pan out, there’s a bit of me that wants to press fast-forward through the ‘not-knowing’ – with the idea that I’ll reach the ‘knowing’, the ‘ahh, this is what the next year(/my life) will be about’ part.
But I don’t know that there is a point in life of fully ‘knowing’, and even if there was, I don’t thinking reaching a point of being completely settled, or being without choices to make, is to be desired.
All this means that I need to learn a patience with the ‘not-knowing’.
I want a patience which enables me to treasure each part and season of my life properly. A patience for the parts of it that bring pain or frustration or uncertainty. A patience that allows me to use those moments and live in them, rather than an impatience which drives me to close my eyes and ears in my yearning towards the next part or season.
The gospel and its message of grace are specifically for the present. And that means patience for the present. It means being patience with this season of life. Being patience with this month and with this week, and not wishing it onward or hurrying through it. It means patience in all the minutes of the day.