by Pauline Doerksen
It was a lovely Sunday morning and time for church. My husband was the guest speaker for the morning and I was looking forward to hearing him preach. This wasn’t something new. He had served as a pastor in our church for the last 26 years, but his role had certainly changed over the last five years. He is no longer on staff but does fill in from time to time.
I had an idea of where things would be going with this morning’s sermon. He had mentioned some of his thoughts previously as he was working it through. I was, however, very caught off guard by how things turned out. I just didn’t see it coming.
Patience. That was the theme of his message. As I sat there listening, something began to stir deep within me. It would prove to be a catalyst to some deeper revelations about myself and some things that I have struggled with in my journey of faith over many years.
Patience is something that I continue to struggle with and I have been aware of that for quite some time. God has wired my personality within me in such a way that I love things to be efficient. Find the quickest way to do as much as you can, to get the results you desire and then move on to the next thing. I love organizing projects and people to get the job done. Crossing things off my list brings satisfying pleasure and a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
I would expect that there are many of you reading this that can identify with me. You know that feeling when you were able to not only complete your to-do list, but also complete things that were not on your list. (Let’s just admit it: We will add those extra accomplishments to that list just so that we can cross them off!)
For the most part, I have appreciated being created this way. However, there are some areas that have been a deep, genuine struggle as a result of those very strengths.
Patience is one of those struggles.
As I continued to take in the message that Sunday morning, I placed myself in Moses’ shoes and I could, for the first time, see myself doing the same thing as him. The passage is found in Numbers 20 and it describes the time Moses was leading the Israelites in the wilderness. They had no water to drink so Moses approached the Lord for provision and he was told to gather the people, stand before the rock and speak to it. Then, the Lord said, that water would pour out from the rock for them to drink. Moses took it upon himself to add a little bit to the Lord’s instructions. He did gather up the Israelites before the rock that the Lord had directed him to. However, instead of just speaking to the rock and commanding it to bring forth water, he chose to voice his frustrations with the Israelites and struck the rock twice.
I had read of this account many times before, this story was not new to me. However, as I was taking it in this time I began to see in my own life how many times I have “struck the rock.” In my haste for progress and results, I have often been frustrated when people and events get in the way. More than that, I would get deeply discouraged with myself as I would fail in areas that I thought shouldn’t be a struggle anymore. I would even take it so far as to admit that there have been times that seem like even God has been in the way. I would often ask why God didn’t move and act quicker to restore justice, health and conquer evil.
I have rarely had times in my life where I have embraced and found joy in the journey, in the waiting, in the process. I have more often thought that being spiritually mature meant that struggles with faith were mastered and temptations were few. As a Christ follower for almost 40 years, I still struggle at times in my faith and temptations are never far from my thoughts. As a result, I have found myself striking the rock in frustration over and over again asking myself and crying out to God: Why can’t I get this right?
So as I sat in the Sunday morning service, I began to understand patience. On this side of heaven, I will never get it all right. We will always be faced with dealing with life in a sinful, fallen world. Patience understands that God is not expecting perfection or a life free of struggle. That is not what God’s expects of me nor is He asking it of me. In all of my two steps forward, my one step back has taught me more of grace and mercy. My understanding of God as my Father has grown and my expectation of other brothers and sisters in this family of God has changed. I would not have learned that if sanctification came instantly.
I encourage you to take a look at Numbers 20 and ask yourself how many times you have struck the rock. As you do so, embrace the challenge and be encouraged. The part that I find remarkable is that even after Moses did that, water still gushed from the rock. God still cared and provided. Yes, Moses had some consequences to face on this side of heaven but God remained with him. He still guided Moses and used him to direct His people.
Honey, I really didn’t like that message, but I am so grateful that you preached it.
Pauline Doerksen and her husband, Sam, are the program directors at our Manitoba Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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