Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near! … Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered … The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
-James 5: 7-11
There seems to be a running theme of patience in my life right now. And, the irony that I’m writing this reflection while waiting for a flight that has been delayed 3+ hours is not lost on me. It only adds poignancy.
I recently read the passage above and was struck by the imagery of the farmer, waiting. I once heard a pastor talk about what it might look like if a farmer took the same approach that we often do. Imagine a farmer planting an apple tree, adding a little fertilizer and water, standing back for about five minutes, and then becoming confused and frustrated that the tree is neither visible nor bearing fruit. A true farmer knows that this process takes time, often years, for the tree to bear fruit. Farmers know that there is a lot at work beneath the surface, which often is unknown to the human eye.
While the inpatient farmer image may draw laughs, I know I often approach life with that same perspective! I expect that things will happen within my timeline- Quickly! I am sure that our microwave, DSL-internet world is no different. Sadly, I take the impatient farmer approach with far too much of my life. Whether that be expecting student issues to resolve quickly, or relationships to be what I want them to be on my own timeline. I certainly am no farmer.
I’ve bend drawn to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth found in Luke 1:5-25, 2:57-66. Zechariah and Elizabeth are best known as the parents of John the Baptist, and Elizabeth was an older cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus. Luke 1 paints a picture of an older couple that wanted to have children, but never did. Despite this great disappointment they were both described as “upright in the sight of God”, a title that implies faith, discipline and contentment. While the two had clearly written off the idea that they might ever be parents, the story paints an image of a couple who did not cease to pray and do what is necessary for their desires to become real.
Ultimately, as implied by their role as John’s parents, the couple was blessed with a son. But, it was certainly clear to Zechariah and Elizabeth that it was “the Lord” (Luke 1: 25) who brought about this blessing. Their barrenness, and ultimate blessing played a big part in God’s glory and the coming of the Messiah, but the timing had to be just right. This equals years of heartache and pain watching other children for this righteous couple.
I think Zechariah and Elizabeth are examples of the patience that James referred to above. While he specifically mentioned Job, I’m sure that James may have had this couple in mind. James the writer is often believed to be the brother of Jesus, so Elizabeth would have been his distant cousin as well. No doubt he grew up hearing the story of what God had done for his relatives. James also was poised to see the glory of God in not only their story, but the selflessness and love of his Brother.
In Luke 2: 65-66, it is said that the neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth were in
“awe, and . . . people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it asking, ‘What then is this child going to be? For the Lord’s hand was with him.’”
It is clear that God’s hand was in the waiting John’s parents experience, the timing of his birth, and his ultimate purpose on earth. It was a timing and glory that only God could have foreseen. Things were being done underground, the seeds had to be planted and nurtured, before the tree could bear fruit.
I’ve found myself wondering what God is doing beneath the surface that I’m trying to rush. I am confident that there are situations and relationships where God is working for His Glory in and through my own life. Ultimately, God will be glorified, but it certainly won’t be on my timeline. It may very well be after I think it’s a lost cause. The key is to be patient and content in trusting that the work underground is being done. Wait is an active word that requires us to be content and patient with where we are, but be willing to take the steps necessary for God’s glory to be revealed. I pray that in this season of Advent, God might reveal within my heart what that means in my life, and yours as well.