Saturday, October 18, 2008

Does patience exist?

Chesterton makes the observation that single virtues, when separated from all the others, are as unhelpful and mad as vices.  For example, truthfulness without charity and patience can run violent.  Likewise, charity without truthfulness and patience is a failure to love sincerely and well. I remember studying the fruit of the Spirit, and one Bible study writer noted it is the fruit (singular) not fruits (plural).  At the time I thought the distinction was probably irrelevant, but in light of Chesterton's comment I am inclined to rethink my position.  It makes sense that the life that is born from the Holy Spirit is one that reflects God's nature more and more, and this reflected nature, which is one, has many characteristics.  

As a mom, I often make resolutions, like "Today I am going to be more patient if my daughter takes forever to go to sleep," or "Today I am going to take great joy in the work God has given me."  But at best I am generally only able to conjure up the patience or joy or whatever for about 15 minute spurts, if that long.  This is sometimes the case even on days when I've had a really great prayer time.  

I wonder if part of the problem is that things like patience or joy simply are not entities to be had.  I cannot get more patience without also growing in truthfulness and kindness and hope, because patience in itself does not exist.  The Holy Spirit is the entity that exists - the Holy Spirit is the one to be "had" - and these are characteristics of that Spirit.  And so instead of hoping and praying for more peace or kindness or self-control or name the prayer, I'm thinking it would be more effective to focus upon praying for and submitting to more and more of God's Spirit.