When I arrive home tonight I’ll do something that I’ve wanted to do since 1992, but haven’t had the chance. 21 years I’ve been waiting! Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about watching the Pittsburgh Pirates play a post-season baseball game. I’ve loved the Pirates since my early childhood, have followed them regularly (some might say “religiously”) for 40+ years, and even keep up with the progress of their minor league players daily during the season. I can tell you the starting lineup from the 1979 World Series Champion team; and most teams in between then and now. I like numbers, immersing myself in baseball statistics, and over the years following the Pirates has been a great distraction from some of life’s sharpest curve balls. One thing about the Pirates that many of you probably know…they had the longest streak of losing seasons in U.S. professional sports history that began in 1993 and ended just last month. Not just baseball; all professional sports! And through it all I’ve remained a fan(atic). My son and I have seen many Pirates games in Pittsburgh, yet this is the 1st time in his life they’ve been even 1/2 decent…and he’s 18.
This playoff game, which my team will likely lose, has prompted me to consider why I so love the franchise. There are several reasons including my fierce sense of loyalty, love of the underdog and eternal optimism; but there’s another reason for my patience that I want to think about with you as it relates to matters of far greater significance than sports. Yes, I really did say that there are things more important than sports and I kind of mean it. I’ve been patient with the Pirates franchise for the last X number of years because they have had a plan. A plan! You see, I’m a huge believer in having a plan, working the plan, and being patient in the process. Patiently awaiting a particular result absent a plan isn’t patience…it’s playing the lottery in life and crossing our fingers that the lucky numbers will be called. Patiently awaiting a desired result absent a plan to achieve it is what children who don’t know any better, do. It’s wishful thinking.
In 2006 a friend of mine said that the Pirates wouldn’t make the playoffs again in my lifetime; I disagreed even though the facts at the moment suggested otherwise. My reason? The General Manager had a vision, a workable plan, and was given the time to put it in place. And so now patience has been rewarded. But the patience of the franchise and fanbase was largely dependent of the knowledge that the G.M. had a plan.
What’s a plan? In my experience it’s simply an organized set of steps that will move us from where we are to our desired destination. Of course, we must first have an idea of where we want to go; or as Christians…where God wants us to go. After that is established, we see the steps and take them one at a time as they come. Of course life can get in the way and circumstances arise that are beyond our control, but I can’t see abandoning the opportunity to plan based on what could happen. Moreover we have to bear in mind the Proverb that asserts God’s sovereign power over our lives; “Man plans and God laughs.” However do remember that God isn’t simply the Lord of wishful thinking and asserts; “I know the plans I have for you…”
What about your life? How’s it going? Where’s it going? Are you waiting around to hit life’s lottery or are you actively pursuing a plan to get you into a position to fulfill your calling? Are there people or situations that are testing you beyond your bounds? Perhaps you have a child who is testing your patience with a lack of direction in life…consider that one way to gain patience is to develop a plan for what he/she is going to do going forward, or make a plan as to how you’re going to respond to their lack of direction! You’ll find that patience increases as plans are made and worked. Another scenario: maybe you’re dissatisfied with where you are in terms of your life, maybe the job or key relationship…what’s your plan?
A STORY FROM THE GOSPELS…
Jesus once saw a fig tree that wasn’t producing fruit. In an effort to instruct His disciples on God’s desire that they be productive and fulfill their purpose in life, Jesus essentially killed the tree. His reason? If the tree wasn’t going to do what it was designed to do, and just stand there taking up space…it might as well be dead. Not a lot of patience from the Man of Compassion! If I could question Jesus about his actions I wonder if He might say that the tree was going nowhere; there was no gardner caring for it, and all indications were that it’s situation would never change. However, if there were a gardner who understood the condition of the tree and was willing to commit to caring for it in the anticipation of future fruit…He would have shown patience.
Most of you know that I’m a pastor in a Presbyterian congregation. Pastoral ministry carries an interesting dynamic related to patience. On the one hand there are always some in the congregation who want to see rapid change, growth and development; while on the other there are some who want to see the preservation of what is. And both are faithful. My challenge is to patiently work with people of both mindsets in order to see where the Lord is leading us. One way God keeps me patient is the knowledge that He has a plan that we are to cooperate with. In other words, this tree has been bearing fruit and God has even more and perhaps different fruit coming in the future.
Even after only 3 months I can see some of where God’s leading the congregation I serve, and am confident that He’ll get us there. Thus for now we’re enjoying the small steps that are following His inspired plan. For me, I see these steps being taken with every conversation, class, meeting (not a fan of meetings!), worship service and event. I see God continuing to make the congregation what He desires us to be.
Can you see where God is leading you? Remember…patience without a plan isn’t patience, it’s merely wishful thinking!
THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION…
- Where are you lacking patience? Why?
- Are you, or others you love, depending on winning “life’s lottery” as a plan for the future?
- Where in your life is a plan needed?
- Will making some plans relieve my anxiety and lack of patience?
- Where is God leading me?
- What’s the 1st small step on the way to God’s destination?