Saturday, July 14, 2007


This summer has presented me with a number of challenges. Ranging from the trite (not being able to watch the surging Chicago Cubs chase down that team from Milwaukee) or material (having my camera break and paying a not-so-fun amount to get it fixed) which are easily overcome and forgotten, or greater challenges like balancing my schedule to leave room for quiet times or adjusting to a social life that is not being surrounded by 8 roommates and a practically unlimited number of people from my peer group.

But the greatest challenge I've encountered is a battle with patience.

I like when things progress. I like to finish papers (not the whole process, just the finishing). I like to see things change for the better. I like to see a landmark reached. I like to check the last thing off my to-do list. I like to be active at all times (or as most call it, hyperactivity). I'm not exactly a patient person.

But some things are, by nature, processes . . . and processes take time . . . and things that take time require patience. One process I am witnessing this summer is the process of sanctification. As I define it sanctification is a Christian belief that God will move any person who belongs to Him, towards the likeness of His Son, or more simply, Christ followers are in process of becoming more and more like Jesus. This process takes a lifetime (a bummer for us impatient folks) and a much better discussion of it can be found in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity (a book that can found as a chief antonym of "waste of time").

In this neighborhood, several of the kids have recently become Christians, which means they are now undergoing sanctification, which is great, in fact its the core of humankind's purpose on Earth, so its a good thing. But its so hard!

I may have written before that most of these teenagers have very little to no church background, so their behavior often is far from Christianized. On the whole, I consider this a blessing because I know what they do and say is genuine. For the most part, these kids don't know enough about church or Christianity to pretend or to go through the motions halfheartedly. They cuss, they fall asleep in church, they say things in Bible study that are wildly inappropriate, but they also pray from the heart, memorize Scripture, and express their desire to live differently. Bottom line: there's no fakers here and that's fantastic.

But along with this sincerity, it means I see all the bad along with the good and sometimes that gets to be a bit much for me. Sometimes I look at their actions or hear their words and think: "Do any of these kids even care?", or "Do they hear a word we say?"

This is because I want results now. I want their lives to instantly be 100% transformed in action and in practice. Essentially, I lack any and all patience at times. I forget that these students are in the same process of sanctification that I am in and that if I could see the big picture of eternity, their new lives would be seen as a miracle, or if I could even see the mid-sized picture of the last year, many of their lives would be drastically different.

I have had to try and learn how to be patient and see progress where it is and rejoice in it. But note, having patience does not mean indifference. I still need to challenge the teenagers about inconsistencies in their lives and I still have to expect them to actively pursue Christlikeness.

About a week ago, I was feeling that there was no progress being seen, when I was very clearly and repeatedly reminded of just how wrong and impatient I am. On Sunday, a student asked me about a situation where he felt like God was telling Him to do one thing, but everything else around him was trying to trick him not to follow God. On Monday, another kid described his dilemma that when he hangs with certain people he does "positive things", but when he's out with his other group of friends, he's constantly pressured to do "negative things". Finally, on Tuesday, yet another guy came to talk to another staff member and myself while we were doing some routine office work about his struggle to live out the things he learned at the camp we went to in Missouri.

BAM BAM BAM! I got smacked in the face with three straight examples of change and found myself realizing that all people are in process, do, and will progress, with a little patience.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23