Patience is something I’ve always prayed for. Patience and wisdom. The two seem like honorable requests.
And while patience was something I asked God to give me, I never asked Him for the opportunities to actually use it. Wisdom was something I was happy to use, as it usually meant making decisions or navigating tough situations or writing what God was teaching me. But patience? Yeah right.
“God, please send difficult people into my life who will frustrate me.”
“God, please make me wait for things I’m super excited to do.”
God, please don’t answer me. Just let me wait and see what your plan is.”
Those are prayers I can guarantee you I never prayed. Yet somehow I got what I never asked for. I still got frustrating people, my plans still met roadblocks, and God didn’t always explain His plans to me.
I wrote a book last year that I really, really wanted to publish and share with everyone. It was a 31 day devotional book for athletes called More Than a Sport. The thing is, the NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to use their athletic experience as a privilege while they’re still athletes. If you want to use your athletic career as a platform for creating a business, building a brand, or anything else that might allow you to earn money, you can’t.
Let me tell you, that was literally the most frustrating and irritating thing I’ve ever been told. So now I have to wait to publish a book that God wanted me to write in the first place! God, why would you tell me to do something, help me do it, and then shut it down once it’s done? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’d like an explanation here.
I spent much of last year meeting with our compliance director and reading bylaws and trying to find any kind of loophole to allow me to publish this book. Nothing.
Honestly, I’m sure if I went ahead and published it I’d be fine, as I’m not some super star with a huge following that will get me noticed by the NCAA. But I suppose it’s better safe than sorry. So now I wait.
I asked God for patience. He gave me an opportunity to use it. Funny.
But maybe when we ask for things like patience or wisdom or joy or any other fruit of the spirit, God hears that request and instead of saying, “Oh here Calli, have some kindness. Now go feel kind,” He sends us people to whom we get to show kindness. Because there’s no point in feeling kind if there’s no one to receive the benefit of that feeling. Right?
We can’t use the gifts we’re asking God to give us unless He also gives us the opportunities (which are often unpleasant and inconvenient) to use them.
As I went through the writing, publishing, and loophole-finding processes, I was talking with someone in our athletic department. I complained to him about not being good at patience and not wanting to wait. He said, “Maybe it’s not about you being patient. But we need to find something that will create in you patience.”
I didn’t really know what he meant when he said that, but I went along as if I did. But now I think I get it. It’s not me being the one to choose to be patient. It’s God creating that in me already, so that when I come across a patience-requiring circumstance, I can see what God already gave me and trust He’ll give me whatever I need for whatever is next.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 may be a little more intense than my own situation, but the idea is still the same. As we endure tough situations that allow us to use the fruits of the spirit, we become more like Christ. It says, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
And Hebrews 13:20-21 reminds me that no matter what situation I find myself in, I’m not ill-equipped, for God has gone before me and provided me with everything I already need. “Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All he glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”
It’s about Him and His glory. It’s about me using the gifts He’s given me in the situations He puts me in to prove His glory. As I say before each race I run, “It’s all you God, not without you.”