Me, Patience and Moby Dick – Jeremy Austill

A legitimate perspective of time, coupled with the virtue of patience, intertwines us with the nature of God. Patience makes us like God, who has not allowed himself to be hurried, and processes His plans according to His own pace and space. Some have said the chasm between expectation and reality is called disappointment. I call it patience. Much of our disappointment and frustration in this life is rooted in impatience. We live in a society that has lauded impatience as a twisted virtue. We are prone to boast about our impatience, laughing at how we hate long lines, traffic jams and waiting in general. Our culture celebrates the one who refuses to “sit around hoping something happens”, but instead determines to make it happen. Americana at its core, holds in high esteem the notion of being the “masters of our fate, the captains of our soul.” We frequently relate the word impatient with more noble terms such as driven, aggressive, assertive, initiative and ambition. As it is with many other philosophies, like a little yeast, eventually these ideas work their way into the thinking of the church. 

The trouble with impatience is it can cause us to despise our now with an eye toward some version of utopia we have conjured in our mind. This frustration with the now disrupts our peace and fatigues our soul. Isaiah 40:28-31 is one of the more renowned passages in scripture. The abridged version conveys the nature of God as being timeless and without fatigue, and His understanding reaching far beyond our capacity. Meanwhile, living in the sin ravaged earth can be exhausting. Yet, there is an elixir for the exhaustion…patient trust. 

Those who wait (patiently trust) in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah (40:31)

It seems, absent patience, it is inevitable even walking will cause fainting. Tiredness of the soul is directly linked to an inability to perceive time and walk in patience well. Yet, when patient, we soar on the wind of the Holy Spirit, catching the jet streams of heaven, allowing them to do most of the work. Other birds flap their wings to fly high, eagles catch the wind. 

I am mindful of the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, all of their accolades credited as faith and righteousness, laid out verse upon verse. Yet it is their epitaph which stirs me the most deeply. 

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. (Hebrews 11:39)

This may be discouraging to the one with temporal vision. However, I sense there is no disappointment in those who did not fully receive in this realm. I recently stumbled upon the details of the life of Herman Melville, one of the most significant authors in American history. He was an aspiring writer who in 1851 released one of the great American novels, Moby Dick. This story is deeply woven into the fabric of our society. It was a part of all of our high school curriculum, thus being valued as an essential, formative piece of our history. Yet the surprising fact is, Moby Dick was largely unsuccessful and lacked critical acclaim during Melville’s lifetime. It did not bring him the fortune nor fame he had hoped. The lack of interest in Moby Dick was such that Melville laid aside many of his hopes and dreams of being a renowned novelist and became a customs worker. It was not until many years after his death that Moby Dick and Melville’s other writings began to be celebrated and positioned in history. Imagine it, pouring your entire being into something only for the fruit to become bountiful long after you were gone.

For some, this may be discouraging. For the patient, it is worthwhile to celebrate today, the resonance of ours lives beyond our breathing. Our lives are not lived in the vacuum of years on the timeline. Our lives are the pens in the hand of the author and perfecter of our faith. Whatever we do, or do not, see in the here and now, we can rest assured the entire story is not yet told. I conclude with one of my favorite verses in the bible…

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished……on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Did you see that? The work of the Lord concerning our lives is not time stamped with our personal expiration date. We often talk of tombstones and how they often have inscribed a date of birth and date of death with a dash in the middle. The dash representing our lives. I contend an additional dash needs to follow the date of death. Because the work is not yet finished.

The chasm between expectation and reality can at times feel as wide as an ocean, but be determined you will not call it disappointment, but instead patience. I cannot say for sure when the reality will unfold, but I am confident the Lord will finish what he started. Don’t go by what you see…go by WHO you see.

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