The other Sunday, the chairs in our sanctuary were pulled up to round tables. You know you’re in for something different when that happens, and this extrovert with opinions to spare was pumped. I was going to share the heck out of whatever needed sharing. I couldn’t contain my glee when I discovered there were news stories at each table. Best Sunday ever.
I scanned through the news story on the table I was at: Gaza. Okay, I thought, I can do this one. Four years of political science, a lifetime of news and information gathering. Game on. With friends living in Beirut and acquaintances directly affected on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the conflict, I felt there were meaningful things I could share.
My table despaired. When would we see the conflict resolved? How would both sides be able to back down? I worried for the youth now emboldened for future violence.
Next we were asked to remove a star from an envelope. Each star contained a word, and these “star words” were to be our guides for this year. I picked out my word. I wish I could tell you that I remember it, but what I do remember was that it didn’t feel right. I threw it back. No one said we had to keep the first one.
My second word was “Patience.” Yup, I thought, that’s my word.
I don’t think of myself as a very patient person. I like order, I like structure. I like a goal and I like a plan that gets me to my goal. Waiting around for things to unfold? Not for me. A strategic plan for new directions and ideas on how to get there? Sign me up. Will there also be several meetings about it? Great, I’m in.
But having patience means things are not in control. Things are not happening. I’m probably waiting. It means sitting in a place of unknowing, and that frequently requires faith. I find not knowing something frustrating, mostly because I can’t plan for unknown things, although that doesn’t stop me from trying.
Lately, in my personal life, I’ve had to practice a lot of patience, and so when I hear that word I think of change and also uncertainty. There are several things I’m patiently, or not so patiently, waiting for, and all of them will bring change.
A few days after pulling “patience” out of the envelope at church, I was working on a page in a devotional journal about cultivating fruits of the spirit. The journal is bright pink with gold embossing and empty space for writing the prompted Bible passage in your own words. It asked me to read Psalm 27: 13-14. I wrote down: Wait for the Lord. Be strong; be courageous. Wait for the Lord. You will see goodness.
Funny, I thought, that sounds like my star word. The gold-embossed heading told me I was working on cultivating the fruit of “patience.”
Change can be a negative when it is scary. War and genocide. To me that’s unimaginable scariness. The loss of a loved one. Scary. The loss of a job. Yup, scary.
For almost a year, Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service has worked on a strategic plan for new directions. Change has been on the horizon for a little while. Don’t worry, the printed magazine is staying.
At times this process has felt fast and scary. It has also been positive. This new roadmap will allow for more and diverse voices to share their gifts and talents with the broader church. It’s new territory. We are excited. The process has required faith and courage. I’m certain it will continue to demand both, but it also needed patience while we dreamed and wrestled with the idea of a new future.
While I’m working on my patience this year, I have two notes stuck to my computer monitor.
The first says: “I hope beautiful things fall into place in a thousand little ways you didn’t expect.” The other: “Brave birds still fly through fog.”