God is patient.
The Bible tells us
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (I Peter)
“Patience is a virtue,” we jokingly remind one another when we grumble over having to wait. Patience is a virtue, and also a fruit of God’s Spirit:
By contrast [to the stuff I do when I’m not cooperating with God’s Spirit working in me] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians)
If you’re God, and you live outside of time, I’m not entirely sure what “patience” means, because for us patience always relates to time and the passing of time. The prophetic Tom Petty told us, “The waiting is the hardest part,” and those of us who have children can certainly attest to this. I love my son dearly, but I believe his average attention span currently runs around 1.6 seconds. Today, while we were out taking our dog for a walk, he said, “Dad, let her leash go so she can run to me.” I registered what he said, I unwrapped the leash from around my hand, and in that time he was distracted and looking away by the time she started running. That, of course, tested my patience.
Patience and waiting are related, as described in Romans 8:24-25: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” If you can see it, you’re talking about something other than hope. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
When we talk about hope and waiting and patience related to Advent, we mostly talk about the people of God waiting for a Messiah. We talk about the prophecies that a Messiah would come and bring Shalom, that God would send this one:
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53)
Jesus followers believe this foretells and describes Jesus. I believe that. I believe Jesus somehow atones for my sins, and yours.
But here is the patience I want to point to: God, who had this plan for salvation laid out for what I can safely say was a long time, came and started a human life in vivo, within the uterus of a teenage girl. Then God grew at the same rate as the rest of us each day. God came to term and Mary gave birth to God in human form–which I know sounds nuts but so does the rest of my life, so it fits–and God took his first breath of air with human lungs. God screamed his first cry* with human vocal cords. Then God patiently lived a human infancy. God learned to crawl, and to walk, and to talk, and to feed himself. God went through puberty. God who would walk on water and calm storms learned the trade his father taught him and said, “Yes, Mother” (okay, “כן, אמא.” “Ken, Eema.”*).
I don’t know when Jesus understood his calling, his life, himself. Every child at some point thinks, “Wow, I’m different.” What did Jesus think? When did awareness of his deity occur? One of the heresies that emerged in the early church said, “Jesus just appears to be human; yes, he’s fully God, but bodies are inherently evil so he gave only the perception of being incarnate.”***
But at some point that happened. I find the Trinity most mind-boggling during the time of Jesus’ incarnation. God in heaven waiting for God in human form to become aware of being God. Got your head around that? But God waited patiently.
Then Jesus became aware that he was God, would die on a cross, would resurrect from the dead and…God waited.
God waited patiently, in hope, and hope that is seen is not hope. I’m not suggesting Jesus doubted who he was–there is no Scripture addressing it and I’m not speculating here. I’m saying at some particular moment in time and space, in our world of time and space, God who had lived eternally, who had created the cosmos, all that exists (“billions and billions of stars”), grasped, “I’m going to die for all these people, the beautiful, kind ones and the nasty, treacherous ones.”
Then God waited.
I’m waiting. I’m waiting on God, I’m waiting to see if God will be faithful, I’m waiting to see how some horribly difficult things in my life, and in our world, turn out. I believe Jesus is coming again, and I’m waiting. I’m waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. I’m waiting for God’s restoration and redemption of creation. I’m waiting for God to lead me.
God has waited, too. God understands waiting. God is waiting still.
Jesus is patient.
*”But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Yeah, I don’t buy that. I think he shrieked.
**I think that’s right. Feel free to correct me; seminary was a long time ago.
***Docetism, 2nd Century. Problem was, if Jesus did not have a human body Jesus could not die on the cross or rise from the dead.