There is No Badge of Honor in Impatience

We are all inclined to view our intentions and even our weaknesses in the most favorable light. When we mess things up or hurt someone else by our choices, a common defense is “I didn’t mean to.” Frankly, that intention usually isn’t the point; the choice and results declare themselves and owning them is the mature response.

With that in mind, things that we think we intend or why we do what we do can be elusive. We may think we know what we meant, wanted, etc., but we will lie to ourselves and believe it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

That passage isn’t about cardiac disease; it’s about the condition of our soul. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. Our mind, will and emotions are deceitful and lie among themselves beyond our understanding. We think we believe something (in our mind) but we choose to do things (our choices reflect our will) inconsistent with the values of those supposed beliefs.

Within that reality, the “fix” for our problems is sometimes not what we think. For instance, fear is not overcome with courage. Courage, in fact, is evidence of fear and the choice to do something despite the presence of fear. Fear is overcome with love. (“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” – 1 John 4:18).

Similarly, I found recently, that the opposite of impatience is not patience, but the opposite of impatience is humility. Consider Ecclesiastes 7:8: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”

All too often we embrace our fears (e.g. fear of heights, dogs, etc.) and, likewise, often embrace our impatience. We will wear our impatience as almost a badge of honor. When asked about our weaknesses in a job interview, it is not uncommon to try to present a negative in a positive light.

According to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, impatience is pride. It is the willful choice of rising up to take control. There is nothing to brag about in our fear nor our impatience. There is certainly nothing to boast about in our pride. When we think we have to resolve things because God hasn’t moved quickly enough in our circumstances so we elevate ourselves to small “g” god status since capital “G” God hasn’t met our expectations, we choose to sit on His throne. That never turns out well in the long run.

God, will you grant me humility enough to wait on you? In Jesus, name, Amen.

The Grace of Pain

When and if you stop to consider your arguments and rationale for why you should get things that you want, those reasons are often based in our perceived value, contribution, entitlements, etc. For those of us of faith, we’ll then put those expectations on God and often find a Scripture or two to “support” our justification. Sometimes we’ll even mistaken the challenges we face as an “attack” when, in fact, God Himself has both orchestrated and allowed our discomfort and He has done so for our benefit and His glory. Consider the following passage:

“You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:8-11)

The Father addresses the rebellion of Israel, which is typically no different than the rebellion of you and I. He explains that instead of appropriate wrath for the depravity of rebellion against a Holy God, He chooses to refine. Instead of a swift and just judgment to the demise of the prodigal, He allows for affliction to grow up the immaturity and grow out the obstinance. I’m thankful for that because without it, I would have been destroyed long ago.

He chooses to look past our depravity which is offensive to His nature and, by His grace, work it out of us. Here’s the bigger point; He does it for His glory and fame. We aren’t really that big of a deal, despite our participation trophies. He is and always will be the point. He knows our selfishness and shallowness would prefer it were about us, yet He allows the affliction of difficultly to refine us and work out those iniquities.

Justice would demand our punishment for punishment’s sake. We would be destroyed but we are pressed to work it out of us, instead. It’s gracious to give us the time to grow and it’s gracious to allow us the process of refinement to redeem what otherwise is simply unacceptable.

In this world, you will have trouble. It’s not always an attack, but no matter if it is or not, the Lord is likely willing in every challenge to work out some expectation of justice or entitlement from within you. He’s willing to redeem your pain for His glory through the resulting maturity that comes with trust, if you’ll submit to Him through the circumstances and allow His glory to be the point over your comfort, preferences or expectations.

Not Worrying About Who is Wheat and Who is a Weed

There was a time when I watched a bond hearing for an 18-year old man who was in jail for a misdemeanor charge and apparently this young man had some more serious legal problems pending. Because of the overall seriousness of his patterns of behavior, he was not allowed out of jail while waiting for his trial(s).

When that decision was announced, he completely lost his composure. All of his anger and frustration were released in with a profane outburst. “I’m trying to get my life turned around and I can’t do it in here. I just got a new job; I am supposed to start today. I cut my hair and everything!”

To this kid, getting a haircut was apparently a pretty significant change to his previous norm. He made a conscious decision to make changes in his life which probably aren’t comfortable or easy for him. His frustration was that even with this effort, things still weren’t going his way. His recent changes were showing some signs of promise; he did get hired. There were still the remaining consequences of his previous choices.

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” (Matthew 13:24-25)

In the same way that young man trying to transform internally with evidence (job, haircut) externally, we all have things that God will work out within us. We don’t need a haircut or a job; we need God to change us. The fact is that we all started out as weeds and it’s only by the grace of Jesus that we become the fruit producing wheat that is talked about in Matthew.

Notice that there are weeds with the wheat; the next verse tells us, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Let them grow together. Quit worrying about the weediness of other people and be about the opportunity to simply be wheat. Sorting it out is God’s job, not yours or mine. We should be about our wheatness and quit worrying about their weediness.

The same grace that invites us to be wheat invites others, as well, and they are working it out the same as you and me. In fact, there are likely days that the weeds within us are more on display than the wheat. If we ever forget that, we’ll start weeding out the weeds that Jesus tells us to co-exist with. In fact, the more we do that, the more chance that we are the weeds in the first place.

Understanding Others Starts with Understanding Self

I was on a video conference call with people from the other side of the world last week. People who have become friends from time that we have gotten to spend together and now work we are getting to do together. People of different cultures and countries with a common goal. Even seeing them on video and interacting in that way stirred warm feelings of friendship and appreciation for them.

As we finished our meeting, someone asked me to close our meeting with prayer. As I started to pray, the Lord stirred the story of the Tower of Babel and I prayed in agreement. In that story from Genesis 11, people were building a tower to reach the heavens. God decided to confuse their common language to prevent their understanding and stop them from accomplishing their task.

Where we can gain common understanding, we can reach heaven and heaven will reach us. Where we can break through the common and preferred way we know things to understand them from a foreign perspective, we’ll gain insight into the Kingdom of God. When we are willing to be uncomfortable and hold our preferences loosely, we can gain the eternal alternative.

Ephesians 2:22 says that God, on the cornerstone of Christ, is building His household to house His Spirit. The household is people in relationship, not institutions, buildings or programs. Where we seek common understanding relationally, we have the capacity to house the very Spirit of God among us.

When stones are arranged relationally to build a structure, they require shaping. The shaping incorporates hammers, chisels and saws. There is abrasive effort to take a stone and alter it in such a way that it can fit with other stones unto a greater purpose than any of the single stones will serve alone. We require the same shaping.

We can reach the heavens as part of the household of God. Where we seek and depend on common understanding, we come closer to heaven and invite heaven closer to earth. That understanding comes at the expense of our preferences and sacrifice of the selfishness of our soul. If we will allow the shaping, our individual purpose will be multiplied in relational agreement with others who are being shaped, as well.

We won’t really understand them until we understand us. Until we are honest about our faults and insecurities, we won’t have any true strength. Our faults will be a fault in the structure until they are recognized and compensated for by the offsetting strengths of the others. We’ll know their strengths compared to our weaknesses if we are willing to admit our weaknesses first.

Multiplying Impact and Results By Developing Culture

I was reading a post-game interview with a major college coach who has been in his current position for two years. His team was coming off of a big, program defining win. There was a particular play where a team rallied with extraordinary effort around the ball carrier.

The play had come on 3rd and 19 and there was about a 10 yard pass; well short of the first down. The receiver pushed and pulled, with the help of his teammates, another 7 yards or so and set up 4th and short. Ultimately, the team went for it on 4th down and converted the first down.

The call – the strategy and tactics – only produced about 1/2 of what was required. It was the unity of agreement towards a goal that pushed the situation to favorable. The coach had done all that he could do and he was left to simply watch as the team took matters into their own hands beyond the result of the strategy and tactic.

Immediately following the play, the coach reportedly said, “That’s a culture play right there.” The culture was changing. He inherited a program with limited success and he was trying to get them to achieve more. He was going about it by attempting to change the culture. If the culture changes, the norms change. If the norms change, people agree related to how and what to do. They already know why; it’s cultural. They agree with the why and are unified towards the what.

Culture multiplies leadership. Culture is the multiplier because it extends beyond the direct control of the leader. The leader doesn’t have to direct the specifics, but can trust that hearts are aligned towards a common goal and the extra effort, creativity and perseverance is a produce of agreement. Skills, talents, abilities and creativity are released to multiply. All the leader is left to do, at times, is watch as the team results exceeds the strategy or tactics employed.

When the leader doesn’t have to be present but the vision is “caught” in the culture, there can be exponential momentum. Ultimately, it is the test of truly outstanding leadership; how do they perform in your absence? Additionally, how do they perform in your absence when faced with unexpected challenges? Can they adapt collectively and push through the variables that weren’t planned for?

Strategy and tactics are easy by comparison. Culture is the hard, slower process of agreement towards a common goal. It’s the “why” becoming so inherent in the language and consciousness of an organization that the leader’s immediate presence isn’t necessary. It’s also the only true multiplier of the three.

Value of Consequences is Determined by Entitlement or Humility

I once watched an attorney represent a young U.S. Naval Officer in a DUI case. The officer was a Naval Academy graduate and the attorney conceded that the facts of the case supported a DUI conviction but that there was more at play. He brought in a former Naval Academy graduate to testify of the ramifications of such a conviction. That former officer testified that he was forced to pay back the value of his Naval Academy education as a result of a similar conviction.

The attorney argued that a $100,000 “fine” would be the practical result of this conviction and that such a “fine” exceeded the intent of the state legislature’s guidelines. The judge reduced the charge to reckless driving but sentenced the officer to several weekends in jail.

I asked the attorney how his client reacted to such a relatively favorable result and the attorney told me that he wasn’t happy about it. He said there was a sense of entitlement that left the officer dissatisfied with the fact that he have to go to jail for a number of weekends.

Similarly, I once represented a client for a felony that I was able to help get reduced to a misdemeanor but he had to go to jail for a couple of weekends. He wasn’t happy; he didn’t want to go to jail. Going to jail for two weekends with a misdemeanor vs. going to jail for months/years with a felony is a huge win. Yet, not a happy client.

Each of the defendants that I referenced was given a bit of a legal gift. The Naval Officer was afforded mercy to avoid a large bill to the government. The felony defendant benefited from a bit of legal maneuvering. In both cases, they did the thing they were convicted of but didn’t want to embrace the stark reality of some time in jail. They were above that, but they weren’t above the abhorrent behaviors that resulted in the scrutiny they were under.

When we are entitled and believe that our intentions supersede our behaviors and our beliefs justify our choices, we simply won’t grow. We’ll be stuck in our immaturity for as long as we aren’t willing to embrace the limitations of our soul. The limitations of our soul are reflected in our choices and our choices have consequences.

I wrote the other day about the value of my depravity. There is grace available where we will seek redemption. For as long as we embrace our “good-guy” status, we’ll miss the exchange. Consequences are graceful as they highlight the goodness of God and the opportunity for transformation if we will change our mind. Otherwise, it’s just a few weekends in jail and the embarrassment without the benefit to our soul.