“The accelerator is on the right,” I growl, unheard to the driver ahead who is going under the speed limit, and apparently unaware that I am running late. Stepping inside the grocery store in the middle of a weekday afternoon is another test in patience as my blood pressure soars again. I clench my teeth and carefully maneuver my cart around six others jammed in the produce section while annoying music blares on the public address system. I have three stops to make and I know precisely where each food item is, yet I must dodge small children weaving in and out all around me and squeeze ahead of other shoppers plodding down the narrow aisles. It doesn’t get any faster at the check out line. All ten lanes are occupied by women who look like they’re on a steady diet of potato chips and ding-dongs moving at a turtle’s pace to unload their grocery carts piled high enough to feed the city of Pittsburgh.
But seriously, other than one morning meeting, I have nothing else scheduled for this particular afternoon. Where is my extreme impatience coming from?
Sometimes I find myself approaching God in the same way I grocery shop. I’ve got 20 minutes and a list. I am impatient to grab the bread of life (whole wheat), fruit of the spirit (bananas, apples and strawberries), and His blood, shed for me (bottle of wine.) Also on the list are the major life goals and desires, such as a husband, children and career advancement. Why can’t I pick those up as easily and quickly as the bread, fruit and wine? They also require much patience and hard work.
The narrative of Joseph found in Genesis comforts me when I contemplate patience. He was living the good life as the favored, youngest son of Jacob until his jealous older brothers sold him into slavery at age 17. He could have earned a degree in patient endurance while he assimilated into the Egyptian culture and learned the language. He had no idea at that point if he would ever see his family again. Yet he faithfully plodded along serving his masters, and thus the Lord. He didn’t ask for the sexual advances made by Potiphar’s wife, and when he fled, he got tossed in jail.
So this is his reward for doing the right thing? How did he not become angry and resentful with all this injustice is one of several issues I find baffling about Joseph.
He faithfully plodded along serving the jail warden for two years until Potiphar hauled him out, not for a trial, but to interpret dreams. It was nearly 13 years – from 17 to roughly age 30 – for God to bring Joseph to an opportunity where he could shine.
What may feel like plodding along in setbacks, failures and delays in our lives could be what the Lord is using to shape our character and prepare us for His bigger, opportunities.
Our most important opportunities may come when we least expect them. Joseph was ready for almost anything because of his right relationship with God. What are we doing in the mundane ordinary to prepare ourselves for those Big Moments in that next stage in life that God is waiting to give us?
We move from resentment to contentment not by focusing on what appears to be our shortcomings and failures, but by immersing ourselves in scripture, carving out time in our busy schedules to pray, and looking for ways to serve others.