I’m an impatient person. I always have been. Whether it’s waiting in line for coffee, for a to reply to an email, or next week’s episode of the latest TV show, I have always been terrible at waiting. It makes me anxious even if it’s just a small thing.
Impatience is a fault of mine that I’ve been working on improving, and for the most part I’ve gotten better about it, but it still comes out every now and again. Whenever I have something big that I’m waiting on, I always pray for patience, but in my experience, God doesn’t just wave his hand and, boom, you have patience. He gives you something to be patient for, and through that, you learn patience.
A few months ago, I was going through a book with my youth group about living a gospel centered life. Most of the guys in my group have grown up learning about the gospel, so to a few of them, they didn’t seem very interested and as the weeks went by, the discussions became a little dry.
While, yes, they had heard it all before, but there is always something new to be learned from the bible which is one of the coolest thing about it. It is The Living Word.
So each week I prepared myself for the usual vague answers that they would give about the book, which were good answers, they just were not very deep.
The same thing happened for weekly prayer requests. I would always ask them what was going on that they wanted me to pray about, and would get the usual “pray for sleep”, or “for good grades”, or “for my friend’s dog.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good prayer requests, I just know that those were not the only things going on in their lives, because, well, I was a teenage guy once, not that long ago, and I had stuff going on throughout high school that I wanted prayers for.
When was the last time you tried getting a group of high school boys to open up? Not an easy task.
Seeing this week after week started to bring back my impatience. I would ask God, “Why are they not opening up? I’ve done everything right. I’ve spent time with them, I’ve prayed for them, I’ve shown an interest in their lives. What’s taking so long, God? Chop chop!”
It really frustrated me because I started doubting, is this even what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I ill-equipped to handle this? If this is my calling, then why am I not seeing any growth?
Of course, God in his perfect timing, gave me an answer to my questions. One week, I was prepared for the same old prayer requests that I got every week, except that I didn’t get them. The guys asked for prayer requests about real issues that they were struggling with: a very sick grandparent, arguments between parents, strained relationships with family.
I’m still surprised at how much that night affected me. On my drive home to Atlanta that night, I had such empathy for these guys to the point that it almost hurt physically. All of the things that they shared, I completely related to. I had the same feelings growing up, and I know how scary, how lonely, and how hopeless those feelings are.
I spent most of that night praying and during that I felt a renewed strength in my desire to mentor these guys. I know that I was in the right place, but what was next? What do I do with that?
The next morning I got an answer to that question as well. I was reading through Philippians and came across Philippians 1:6 which says “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I simply need to carry on with my calling and be faithful in making disciples, and God will do the rest.
I’m learning that growth is a slow process and it takes time. I may see it quickly in my students, or slowly. It may not happen to every student I work with in my life. I could invest all I can in a student and they don’t change until 10 years later, and I won’t see any of it.
All I know is that I’ve been gifted this amazing opportunity to love, serve, and lead students, and regardless of the results that I see, I have a duty to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)… and it’s going to take patience.