than to belong to God.
*Richard Rohr. Everything Belongs.
I spoke recently to a fellow-clergy friend. He remarked about a sermon he gave titled "The Fruit of the Spirit Nobody Wants." He asked me, "What do you think it is?" I laughed, saying, "Patience." I was right.
To the young pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, in I Timothy 6.11: "But you, man of God, ... live in the right way, serve God, have faith, love, patience, and gentleness" (NCV). As a person and pastor, I, like Timothy, work at patience.
To say I "work at" patience is not fully true. What do I mean? Okay, let us look at where the Christlike virtue of patience comes from, ultimately.
Remember that list of universal virtues, the Fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5.22 reads: "But the Spirit produces the fruit of ... patience, ..." (NCV). You and I do not produce patience, the Spirit produces patience. The Spirit, and spirit, is the Life-Force that manifests in the world of matter-form in varied ways, all from the One Source, the Universal Presence.
Therefore, how do we "work at" being patient? We do this by practicing the means of grace, or spiritual practices, that connect us with the Spirit daily. This connection deepens over time. The more the connection is the more freely we express patience and the less we feel our efforts in being patient. In full oneness with the Divine, there would be no sensation of our being patient, only the fact of patience being one with us.
Now, how can patience become one with us? Let us return to Scripture. Romans 15.5 refers to the Divine as "the God of patience and consolation" (AV). This indicates two matters.
First, patience is of the essence of the Being of God. God is not essentially choosing to be patient, for patience is part of Divinity: God is patience, as God is each other aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. Literally speaking, God is never patient, not essentially, for God is patience.
In God, to say "patience" is to say "God," to say "God" is to say "patience." God is indivisible Simplicity, the totality of Reality in One Total. God is the Indivisible with the indivisible potential to become many. God is you before "you" were born, for "you" cannot be "you" without you being in That Which is Potential. So, where were "you" before you were born? In God, God.
Second, any experience of true patience is through our innate connection with our Source, or God. While the will agrees to patience, the will does not effect patience. Rather, spiritually, the will surrenders to God, to Patience. Then, the consciousness-being of the person begins being transformed into patience, and this evidences in a growing disposition of patience in action.
When we experience the above ongoing transformation, we discover something we maybe did not know. We discover at ever-more subtle degrees exactly how impatient we have been and are. Through our surrender we agree to place ourselves under the scrutiny and exposure of the Pure Light of Presence.
All of this leads to a universal, spiritual truth. Drawing nearer to God in surrender will always lead to an increase in becoming and manifesting patience ~ as well as all the other spiritual virtues. The opposite is true, as well, disconnecting in any degree from the Source leads to a decrease in the capacity to be and manifest patience ~ again, including each and all the other virtues of true spirituality.
Therefore, contemplation entails moving from our working at becoming something to receiving Someone. We receive that Someone, that Something, more purely directly than indirectly. Contemplation is to effect a direct connection with the God Who is All The Virtues, and this exposes us both to the Light that shows us our lacks and increases our being and manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit. Simply put, for a focus, contemplation is work at becoming a person characterized by patience, perseverance, longsuffering, and dependability in both easy and difficult times.
I recommend a daily prayer of surrender to God and for each grace in the Fruit of the Spirit. Also, when you feel impatience arising, silently within refresh your surrender through Silent Prayer. Simply put, stop and inwardly give yourself anew to the Grace of Patience, the Inward Presence of Love.
Finally, in contemplation, we move toward the One wherein there is no distinction between patience and impatience, for all the virtues are opposites of non-virtues existing on the Ladder of Existence below absolute Existence, or God. Note the words of the Christian philosopher and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (15th Century):
In God we must not conceive of distinction and indistinction, for example, as two contradictories, but we must conceive of them as antecedently existing in their own most simple beginning, where distinction is not other than indistinction.
*"Nicholas of Cusa and the Infinite," T. J. McFarlane, www.integralscience.org : March 2004.
This leads to true spiritual, even Christian, humility. How? For we have in God and in ourselves in God ~ as before our birth into the "contradictories" ~ returned, so to speak, to the Simplicity in which we have no claim to anything ~ either of virtue or otherwise. All is God, of God, and for God.
* * *
*Brian K. Wilcox lives with his wife, Rocio, their two dogs, St. Francis and Bandit Ty, and their fish, Hope, in Southwest Florida. Brian is vowed at Greenbough House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian community in Georgia. He lives a contemplative life and inspires others to experience a deeper relationship with Christ. He advocates for a spiritually-focused Christianity and the renewal of the focus of the Church on addressing the deeper spiritual needs and longings of persons and empathic relating with diverse spiritual traditions, East and West. Brian has an independent writing, workshop, and retreat ministry, for all spiritual seekers.
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