Pursuing patience and other aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit….

It was one of “those” weeks…..a trial presenting itself from every direction I turned. It started last Sunday when, after 3 weeks of seeking a facilitator for Purpose Driven Life classes, I finally resigned myself to teaching the Sunday session and the Wednesday session myself. I guess I must have needed it. I decided to give this spring’s participants as close to the same experience that we all enjoyed when our church did the original course in October 2003. So, we started with the one and a quarter hour simulcast video, which is a good overview of the entire curriculum. It was a little long, but it set up the study of the book well. One point Rick Warren makes in the video is that, with regard to the fruit of the Spirit, in order to grow in those areas, God sends us challenges that are the opposite of the desired goal. I’d always heard that was the case with patience, but hadn’t considered that it might also be the same with each of the others. (Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control) I should have figured that out on my own, though, since, in order to cultivate peace He sent me conflict. In order to cultivate faithfulness, He allowed me to experience rebellion. In order to experience joy, He allowed me to experience sorrow. Aha, the pattern was already well in place!

Mondays are always busy….getting off to a fast start with case management, numerous appointments for the students, one student with financial issues that required a significant amount of time and phone calls, and demands, demands, demands. I also have begun teaching one of the classes for the late phase, advanced students on Monday evenings, so it’s a long day.

Tuesday I had a church staff training session for a half day, then back to the residence to do more case management, weekly reports, a monthly report, and try to clear a stack off my desk.

Wednesday was such a blur, I can hardly remember it. But Thursday… well, Thursday can be described only with the word “explosive”. Everyone seemed to be having a bad day of it. I had to mediate and deflect and call down and keep on going. One person, in particular, has seemed recently to be having a particularly hard time containing her anger. This was another test for me.

As God would have it, however, our students’ Purpose Driven Life class, taught on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons by me, had us at chapter 21, entitled “Protecting the Church”, a lesson on unity, conflict, and resolution. I pulled additional resources from my bag of tricks (actually from Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker curriculum and an essay I developed from Craig Jutila’s boat analogy for responses to conflict). We often take only 30-45 minutes in this class, but Friday, after a long week fraught with stress and conflict, we used the entire hour…plus a few minutes. There was some honest expression of recognition of individuals’ own sin in this area. At the end of the session several commented that they’d really enjoyed the session and learned a lot from it.

One of the things that came up from one student was the opinion that it would have been nice to have known these things before she’d run into difficulty with poor response to conflict, then perhaps she could have avoided it. I shared with her, as I had learned in life, that because we don’t always listen well to the lessons we hear or have the ability to apply them due to lack of experience and understanding, sometimes we actually have to experience things the hard way, then, when the lesson from the scripture is presented, it resonates loudly and clearly and with perfect timing to show us what to do with it. I compared it to my training with a consumer sales organization years ago. They took us in for a week of brief training, then put us in the field for a couple of months…..more or less to struggle along the best way we could…..then took us back for more intensive training. The second session was so much more instructive because now I knew what it was that I was needing to learn, what I was going to be facing in the field.

Field experience in any area in which we need development is helpful in getting us to the place of realizing how little we know and how desperately we need help. It can be a humbling experience, having to learn things the hard way. But it seems to be part of God’s pruning, His way of teaching us humility, and, as I have experienced it, a tremendously effective way of instructing us in righteousness through pridefulness and failure.