“Passion…will have all now, but Patience is willing to wait.” –John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
Now or never.
Next things and cheap rings.
Passion keeps pushing.
Could there be a value–
A wealth, a fortune, even–
Warding off vanities with
A simmering rumble expounded to a roar…
A towering wave quelled upon the shore…
A dogged, prudent asking for more…
Patience permits pauses.
When I got the email that my school was returning to campus this fall, I wasn’t excited. I honestly didn’t feel anything in particular. When people asked I told them I was looking forward to being back on campus and seeing everyone again. I wasn’t lying, I really was looking forward to it, I just didn’t let myself invest in the thought emotionally.
In truth, I was already looking long past this coming fall semester. Maybe by spring there would be a vaccine, and no more necessity for masks. I would be able to have all the adventures I wanted to have in the city before I graduated. I was dreaming ahead about job opportunities, possible travel plans, and how everything might be different after the end of the school year. Then it was on to life afterward, with all its shining possibilities. Fall semester was just a bridge to cross from the disappointment of quarantine to the discoveries of the future.
Just like that, I had 2020 written off. What good could come from it anyway? I didn’t expect anything positive to happen, didn’t expect myself to do anything remarkable, didn’t expect God to have any more wonders for the rest of the year. It was used up.
I found myself saying it in conversations: “We’ll just start over in 2021”.
I heard it on the radio: “Doesn’t 2020 just suck?”
I heard it from others too: “2020 is basically cancelled.”
But then I looked at the calendar: it was (and still is) July. That meant there were five months before the end of 2020. What could possibly fill those months?
So I started filling them myself: reading and writing and projects and posting and running and texting incessantly and eating and movies and anything else I could possibly think of to distract me and make it feel like I was getting somewhere.
I realized that I was entertaining a lack mentality. This kind of thinking can look a lot of different ways, but in this case it meant assuming that the next five months were a wasteland with no joy to be found, no excitement, and nothing worthwhile to invest in. It meant thinking that I had the power to consume enough things to fill my own life in the way I wanted. I wanted to just run myself ragged trying to get to the next thing. I had no trust that the Lord would continue to fill my life with good things (Psalm 103:5), so I tried to fill in my perceived lack myself and ignore whatever He wanted to do with 2020.
Patience has the answer to this problem. Instead of pushing past this year, what would it look like to pause in it? To inhabit the gray area? To not try and get all of my normal life back right away? To wait on the Lord and see what he is building and working on? The truth is, as much as we try to run about filling our lives with the next thing, God outruns us every time. He never stops being generous or kind or diligent in doing good for this world. He is always giving, saving, healing, filling, and serving.
So my attitude has started changing: In the pause, what are the things I can experience only in this time? What are the things I can work on in the background of my life that might helpfully surface later? How can I keep learning to be an advocate of justice and racial reconciliation after the waves of excitement about it on social media have passed? What foundations can I lay for disciplines, habits, or skills right now? How could I lean in to the fall semester on campus with all my friends and peers and work and classes? In all these things, what is God still doing in 2020? If you find yourself writing off 2020, maybe you could ask yourself similar questions.
It surprised me to find that pausing in this year was the best way to keep moving through it.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9