How long, O God? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? – Psalm 13
Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of God, how God is compassionate and merciful. – James 5:11
By your endurance you will gain your lives. – Luke 21:19
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. – John Quincy Adams
And sure enough, even waiting will end… if you can just wait long enough. – William Faulkner
Of all of the virtues I and many others that I know strive to practice and maintain, patience has to be one of the most valued to me. However, it can also prove to be one of the most challenging at times. Not nearly so much as it once was, as I will relate a bit later, but there are times when I can find it tested and I have to reach within my soul and out to God to continue to maintain it.
I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago, when I was met with having to stand alone, in a line for over two hours. I stepped into the line, initially not being fully aware of how long it was, and at first, took the approach of, “This will pass in no time.”
It didn’t. Time just seemed to stand still. Not having one of those fancy phones that offer really fast internet access, and being low on minutes and in the midst of multiple conversations around me, there was no available access to what I would usually pacify myself and pass the time with. There were no magazines, as it was not a waiting room, and I did not have a good book with me. As I was among strangers, being somewhat introverted that day, I did not see any immediate opportunities for conversation.
As a result, that old goat that has too often in my experience gotten the better of me, impatience, began to rear its ugly visage in my psyche. I suddenly had the urge and the desire to suddenly fast forward through to the front of the line and skip the next couple of hours. I was on the verge of actually praying for God to make time go faster and to “just get me through this.”
But then I caught myself, and mentally chastised myself for such an idea. I opted instead to pray for patience, and focused on the thought of God granting me the patience to remain fully present and in the moment and find the best in it. I ended up striking up some conversations for some of the time, which led to my experiencing thoughts and ideas I may not have had otherwise. I thought of the good that had taken place that day and recently, and did some daydreaming and mental planning for the week ahead. Before I knew it, the wait was over. Not only had the time seemed to move quickly, there was a great feeling of satisfaction from simply sticking it out in the face of adversity and patiently achieving my goal.
Later that evening, I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if all prayers were answered that rapidly. In my life, prayer has proven to be, for lack of a better term, somewhat of a mixed bag.
For the vast majority of the time, I have found it to be a source of extreme joy, inner peace and well-being, but at other times, it has proven to become somewhat of an enigma. By the latter, I mean that there have been occasions where I was uncertain if I was praying “correctly” or with the best intention or outcome which is congruent with my own personal walk with God through Christ, and there have been other instances which have seemed downright frustrating. But in all of the hours of my life I have spent in focused prayerful time, including the ten or fifteen minutes of quiet reflection and introspection which I still commence every day with, I have found one constant attribute which never seems to vary.
Prayer, or at least those prayers we pray and reflect on the most – the ones which align with the deepest desires of our heart, that never ending spark which consumes our thoughts, or our greatest yearnings is a funny thing, sometimes. It seems at times that the greater the focus, the more of our thought space they occupy, the greater the importance we assign to or place upon them, the further away they seem to be.
Before I elaborate further, I feel that I need to clarify that along my Spiritual path, I have attained a sense of knowledge that “prayer” never necessarily needs to be some formal ritualistic endeavor where one quite literally bows upon their knees and recites some formal recitation and invocation, nor need it involve repeating the same words and phrases to God (even though some sort of loving affirmations may prove to be effective at some times entering into prayer), as I feel that is the “vain repetition” that Christ admonished against in Matthew 6:7 as being ineffective to our spiritual health. Prayer does not even require any formal “recitation” of anything, for that matter. In my opinion; the most sacred and absolutely Highest form of prayer is via expressing our gratitude to God through embracing our lives, living fully, striving to always practice the Great Commandment to show others the same measure of love that God Has Shown us, helping others whenever and however we are able and remaining mindful and aware of opportunities to do so, and seeking opportunities to share the gifts and blessings God Has Brought into our lives with those around us.
Prayer can be defined by something as simple as the smile we feel within our soul when something we had hoped for comes to fruition, the kind act we return to another, or even a spark of hope which something we long for will come to pass. It can be the moment when we feel a sense of Oneness with God and fully acknowledge that there is no way we can ever be separate from God’s Love, or it can be the moment when we acknowledge that we might have not been as successful at being as loving as we could have or should have been towards another who might have been testing our patience and the inner longing and need our heart feels to atone and somehow not only make amends or make it better, but strive to respond differently – and with a greater sense of love – should we be faced with a similar conundrum or crossroads in dealing with others in the future. Or, it can simply be recognized in the moment when we reach a state of awareness that whatever obstacle may loom before us at the given time, we lack the inner fortitude and strength to conquer it alone, and our soul cries out in desperation for God to Guide us through whatever adversity – or what we perceive to be adversity – which we are facing.
For the purpose of the point I hope to successfully illustrate in this instance, however, I am limiting the definition of prayer to be that which is some event we might individually wish to transpire, some situation we might wish to either be different or be able to discern from a different perspective, a goal we would like to accomplish, an improvement we desire to experience, or anything tangible or intangible in life we might hope to obtain or attain for others, ourselves, or everyone. You might be familiar with the type I am referring to: those prayers for things that we know are possible but which seem impossible to us at this point and time for whatever reason. It is not that we feel that God is somehow opposed to that for which we are praying and hoping for, it just seems as if it is taking an extraordinary length of time to see them realized.
In other words, it seems as if it takes forever. And in the thick of those times, we simply have to learn to effectively play what is known to as “The Waiting Game.” Unfortunately, not only have quite a few people forgotten the rules for that game or how to play, many are not fully cognizant of the fact that it even exists until they find themselves in the midst of an extended round of it.
In today’s world barreling along at a pace which often seems to be dangerously close to terminal velocity – one far distant from Biblical times when the story of Job’s patience being “tested” was said to have occurred, and one based in a cultural expectation of “instant gratification,” I fear that a great many have become desensitized to the true virtue that patience is and the infinite value it has. Very few people have ever truly enjoyed the concept of waiting for something, and now for so many it not only seems unnecessary but borderline impossible.
Consider for a moment the astounding progress over just the past twenty years which technological advances have provided. Christmas and Birthday cards are sent less frequently, as one need only log on to the internet via a computer or a telephone carried in one’s pocket to send greetings. No need to send out those annual letters to the family or friends, they know what you did just three seconds prior when you posted them on Twitter or Facebook. There is no longer a necessity to take photos and take them up to the little yellow Kodak hut and then wait a week or even an hour for the prints to arrive, as you can post them where everyone in the world can view them in a matter of minutes. No requirement to take the time to make a home cooked meal, with the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen, as dinner can be ready in five minutes via the microwave. I cannot recall the last time I saw a pay phone, as more and more are going to mobile phones. If a website takes more than a few seconds to load, many just seek out another which does not. And there is not even a need to wait for the morning paper to receive the daily news, as it is but a few clicks away for so many.
Given all of the above and more (and I sometimes shudder at the prospects of what the coming decade will bring), it is no wonder that in today’s society that patience seems to be transforming in many counts to a forgotten virtue. I am not saying that we should abandon progress by any means; the greater connectivity and coming together which it has facilitated is a definite blessing. It was partially due to the network of support for LGBT individuals on the internet that I was able to find other Christians who accepted me as a bisexual when I was coming out in the late 1990s, and I know there are countless individuals who have found hope via an online community they would not have been able to connect with before or even something so small as a supportive text message someone sent to them in a time of need. It isn’t all negative, there is an ample abundance of good which has come as a result of all of the rapid progress society has made. It does take place when those with love and good in their hearts take full advantage of utilizing these tools, ones which I fully believe that God Intended for us to discover, to share good with others and use it for good. To quote a popular film in recent years, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.”
To me, the potential hurdle that is created by such a wealth of resources and information provided to us in such an expedient manner is that we may temporarily have our sense of patience obscured. And for such a multitude of things which are vastly more important than what someone just posted to their wall, how long it will take to make dinner, and how fast we can receive the latest upgrade or the latest news, patience is not only a requirement, it is an imperative. Patience is something we simply cannot ever afford to be without in this world, as the things that matter the most and the goals which are truly meaningful require more time than so many in this age are accustomed to allotting for or investing.
And the aspect I find truly tragic is that for all of the incredible, fascinating and wonderful strides of phenomenal progress the human mind, technological advancement, and evolution of knowledge we have made and how rapidly, there are far more critical steps which humanity needs to take and progress we should have long since made in other areas of our evolution and development that we are either not taking, or when we are, they are being taken at an embarrassingly slothful pace compared to our progress in other avenues of life.
In this day and age, I still find my heart breaking that there are still those who would still persist in clinging to archaic, fear-based, and un-evolved concepts and beliefs about God and continue to deny God’s Love to others based on their sexuality or sexual orientation or for any reason at all for that matter. Even with the astonishing progress towards greater LGBT acceptance, marriage equality and full and equal rights for all people which has been made in recent years, it is disheartening to see that for so many that something like sexual orientation, which should be a complete non-issue, is still an issue for so many who persist in preventing progress towards a truly inclusive climate, society and church.
For every time the new Pope accurately points out that Jesus emphasized love and told us not to judge, there seems to be ten people who accuse him of “not reading the Bible” or “not being a true Christian.” For every open minded and open hearted Christian who posts a video online affirming that Christians are “Not All Like That” (exclusionary towards the LGBT Community rather than welcoming), there are groups of fundamentalist Christians who refer to the very concept of affirming and welcoming those of us in the LGBT Community into an inclusive church as beloved Children of God as being “brainwashing”, “blasphemy”, or at worst, “bullying of real Christians.” For every happy and well-adjusted LGBT individual, there are sadly hundreds who are alone, suffering and struggling, rejected by loved ones rather than embraced when coming out, and searching for and waiting on others to love and accept them for who they are.
Granted, there has been a joyous and tremendous surge in the past few decades and particularly the one we are presently in towards a true sense of acceptance, love and equality for the LGBT Community in society and in the church as well. But even with the blessing of such considerable progress, one need only look so far as the evening news to learn the unfortunate truth that not only is there still some distance to travel but that in some areas, things are regressing as those who are insistent upon continuing to perpetuate hate, ignorance and exclusion become increasingly angry and vocal. How is it that this world can make so many amazing strides to make life faster and more convenient for ourselves as individuals, and with such a ferocious amount of speed, and not only fail to make the same type of expeditious progress towards something even more important to our societal and spiritual well-being but seem to travel in the opposite direction at times?
I cannot attribute it to a matter of priorities without accusing others of being or judging others to be predominantly self-serving. Although self-preservation time and time again has been the driving force behind the advancements humanity has made, I have to think that we are more spiritually evolved and mature than that. I cannot imagine that the general consensus would be to only make steady progress in that which meets our basic needs or what the majority would consider or perceive those to be while neglecting others. I don’t want to blame it to a collective sense of impatience, either, as it is my hope that over time we have truly been able to learn and somehow internalize the inherent value of patience as opposed to attempting to find solutions without taking all factors into consideration and clearly thinking through and visualizing the desired outcome; the extent to which those who have contributed such progress to the world over the years have proven the theory that real progress requires taking steps carefully is the best route to travel towards progress.
I have to once again credit the lack of progress I feel the world has made in certain areas, particularly that of truly learning to love and accept one another for who we are as we are, and work together in harmony to a state of spiritual stagnation which is directly caused by fear.
I would suppose, as with matters technological and scientific that it could be reduced all of the way down to an overall fear of progress away from the “comfortable, established and familiar.” I would imagine that when humans first discovered fire, there was a great deal of fear until it was learned that it could be harnessed and channeled to improve life. I know from studying both science and history that those in the throes of discovery were more often than not met with fearful opposition at the time, as new knowledge seemed to challenge old and accepted beliefs and therefore was found threatening by some, not unlike things remain in this day and age. There was resistance to ending the barbaric practice of slavery, resistance in the not too distant past for equal rights for both genders and those who were not Caucasian (and as unfortunate as it is to note, sexism and racism still show their deplorable faces from time to time today), and resistance when same gender attraction was no longer considered an aberration or abnormality by the psychological community. And perhaps most profoundly of all, the radically loving, forgiving and non-traditional teachings of Jesus created so much fear among the religious leaders of the time intent upon maintaining their existing understanding of God that it led to their attempting to silence Him.
As I have opined on many occasions, I think that fear is the real evil, the real devil that the writers of the Bible were advising us to resist and be wary of. While it is always to me sound advice to be and remain mindful and aware, I do not feel that anything good has ever come from just being afraid. God and trust in God’s Love can not only overcome but obliterate fear, although that too will – and does – require patience. I do have faith that love will eventually silence fear, but in the interim, as progress continues, it is a matter of playing that allegorical “waiting game,” enduring and persevering towards that end.
Since I am discussing the concept of patience and waiting, I feel it relevant to contrast two different forms of waiting on something: what I feel to be the good kind of waiting – patiently waiting with faith, courage and awareness, and what I feel to be the negative kind, which is hesitation and apprehension borne of fear.
The old saying “Good things come to those who wait” has a companion that a friend of mine used to tack on as an addendum: “…but not to those who wait too late.” She would always do this when we were having a conversation and she was aware that I was not waiting patiently, but rather postponing something which needed to be done out of apprehensive anxiety. While it was one thing for me to be waiting for the right time or amount of preparation and planning to attempt something, to express a feeling, or to make something happen, it was another entirely for me to allow my own fears and insecurities to prevent from acting upon the very opportunities I had prayed to God to bring in my life and the chance for spiritual growth which were directly in front of me.
The job opportunity that would have required a leap of faith and taking the time, courage and effort to break away from the old, familiar and comfortable to begin a new and better career path? The fear that I somehow would fail to perform or did not deserve it for whatever reason caused me to postpone it until it was no longer available. The relative that I had meant to reach out to and make amends with but was too anxious about having the courage to open up to and communicate with? Tragically, when I did reach out to make that connection, after willfully passing up multiple chances to, I found they had passed on. I still at times mentally berate myself for not purchasing a home for $80,000 that I found just recently sold less than 20 years later for nearly $500,000 because I was “holding off on making that kind of investment,” despite the fact that it made sense at the time. And I could go on and on about the times when I allowed fear as an excuse to justify neglecting and constantly delaying to take action on wonderful opportunities which slipped out of reach when I did, but the point I want to emphasize is that while patience is a virtue, I had to come to a place of learning that it is imperative to take action when we feel in our hearts that the time for waiting is over, regardless of what roadblocks of fear, insecurity or anxiety the mind may seem to present.
Being able to discern what I feel is the fine line between patience and postponing an action which should be taken is something I have only been able to establish and accomplish through faith; it is not too unlike that proverbial fine line between confidence and arrogance, or the fine line between taking responsibility and taking care of our own needs while not allowing ourselves to become self-absorbed and inattentive to the needs of others.
But the good and positive form of waiting – of being patient and trusting in God – that can prove to be a truly challenging task to take on for anyone at times. I will be the first to admit that I have failed spectacularly in that regard more times than I can count.
I can think of too many times when I was so certain that something I hoped for would not happen that I ceased in my hopes altogether. In some cases, that turned out to be precisely the measure I should have taken, as when I stopped trying to make something happen, as if to prove the old adage of the “watched pot never boiling” sincere, things fell into place. In others, when I elected to allow my lack of patience to grow into impatience, disastrous results seemed to always follow.
There are smaller instances, such as the time I was so absorbed and concerned I would be late to an appointment that I chose to travel at reckless speed, and did end up late not due to traffic or travel time but due to an epic speeding ticket, or the time when I was so certain that I would be terminated from a job for a mistake that I just resigned “before it could happen.” In my youth there were the relationships I sabotaged because I was certain that things would not work out, even in time. There were the projects I abandoned as being “too time consuming” which would have proven to be worthwhile as I discovered in retrospect. And the friendships or opportunities for growth I might have missed had I not been in such a rush to get where I was going. Impatience has never yielded any form of positive outcome or result for me, and I have seen the same types of consequences befall others who succumbed to it.
At times, that has been quite severe. I recall someone being impatient about leaving earlier to drive somewhere who ended up getting into an accident and totaling their vehicle, whereas had they just been patient and waited for the person who wanted a ride, the accident could have been avoided altogether. I know of someone who had a scratch off lottery ticket where it allowed them to take a trip to a nearby city to spin a wheel and win at least $100,000.00 with the potential for millions, and because they neglected to look closer at the ticket and realize this, actually discarded it because it was not an “instant winner.” In perhaps the most extreme and tragic example, I had an acquaintance many years ago who decided to take their life due to a failed relationship and being broke, unemployed and unable to find work. Had he waited and held on for just two more days, rather than succumbing to fear and hopelessness, he would have still been around to take the phone call with a job offer, and welcome his spouse back home with open arms.
Developing a sense of patience in my own life actually began for me during the time when I jokingly refer to as the time when God Was being patient with me to come around. Although I was not on any spiritual path at the time, I would spend time agonizing and wondering “when things were going to get better”. I can’t recall the exact context in which it came to me, or precisely what made me think of it, but just one word came into my mind, resoundingly clear, almost as if it were written and engraved on my heart: Patience. It came and went, I recall raising an eyebrow considerably as if to question to myself, “Where did that come from?” and went about my business.
Even though I did not subscribe to any spiritual path or belief system at that time in my life, the word kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts at any time when I was feeling as if something I wanted to happen just … well, wasn’t happening. And strangely enough, that worked. No, it did not result in things transpiring one iota faster, but it did temper the ways and the methods that I would cope with events in life.
And many years later, through the turn of events which caused me to finally experience a profound personal epiphany and spiritual awakening and became what I understand to be a Christian (which to me means a follower of the Teachings of Jesus as I understand them as being the best way for me to connect to God), I found what I had learned back then to be even more beneficial. Especially considering that in the years following and during the journey I began then, my patience, endurance and perseverance would be tested. Not quite to the extent to that of Job, but considerably nonetheless.
It took patience for me to take the time to discard all of the old fears, assumptions and anxieties which had prevented me for so long from reaching out to God, and caused me to reject anything Christian. It required patience for me to rebuild a new faith on a far more secure and solid foundation, not one which purported to possess all of the answers, but enabled to me to have strength and faith amidst all of the questions life presents. When I finally came out first to myself and to others as a bisexual man, the process of reconciling my sexuality and spirituality took both a tremendous amount of courage and patience, as well as time, yet I endured and I persisted, knowing that I could not ever choose between the two. And when I finally understood that for me bisexuality means that I feel a need for honest intimate relationships with both a woman and a man, it required a great deal of patience for me to not only develop those relationships but to locate others who were accepting and supportive of such.
And in my day to day life now, being able to express my truth in a way which is respectful of others and remaining steadfast in my faith despite the fact that there are others who deem bisexuals and especially those like me as non-existent or “wrong” requires my loving patience. It has taken a great deal of patience as more and more are including rather than excluding the “B&T” in “LGBT” (or adding it as an afterthought) and for more to understand that bisexuality is no more of a choice than being homosexual or heterosexual.
Most importantly of all to me, it takes patience to strive to always and in all times to truly practice the Way of Jesus to Love One Another, forgive, and treat all others with the same measure of love we would desire even when they do not extend the same courtesy. It requires patience to let go of a need to be “right” or “have the last word” and strive to love and listen instead. And all of this comes on top of the patience which my goals and responsibilities – including living my life and being a full time caregiver for both of my disabled and ill parents whom I love dearly – require.
But it is not just prayers and hopes for me. It is for everyone I know and those I don’t. I long for the day when no one even raises an eyebrow when someone states that they are LGBT and Christian, and that sexual orientation is a total non-issue and no one is ever judged for it. I would love to see there be no such thing as “same sex marriage” OR “traditional marriage” but just “marriage” between any who want to express their love for one another regardless of gender. I would love to see a world where everyone can show everyone the same measure of love, whether we all share the same beliefs, opinions and lives or not.
All of the hopes and prayers for myself and for others, as well as dreams and goals I have may not have transpired at this point. Yet I am not impatient in the least. I am not by any means attempting to allege that my patience is never challenged or tested, or that the “waiting game” is one I always want to play or initially enjoy playing. And I don’t feel that anyone always does, but what I do feel is that God Has Blessed us with numerous ways to cope and learn to obtain the most out of the process.
And on that note, I want to share a few brief tips which have been helpful and enriching to me during those allegorical “long waits” and times when it seems as if things we long for and hope for. Think of these as “Things To Do/Think About While Waiting” for lack of a better term:
1. Remember that God’s Time and our time are not the same. I always like to say that while I am not a “Creationist” that I respect God as the Creator of all we are and know. When I look at the processes through which I personally believe that God Created all and all of life, and the incredible amount of time it has taken, suddenly any delay to me seems insignificant, trivial and meaningless in the grand scheme and Design. Even among those who DO subscribe to the idea of the Earth and everything being wrapped in “six days,” I have heard this justified in “a day is a thousand years to God” as employing this somehow seems to generate the necessary cognitive dissonance to maintain a belief in the time in which things were done established by a literal take on Genesis.
All of that aside, I personally don’t believe that God Operates on man-made constructs such as a “day” or “time” any more than God can be assigned a “gender” like “male” or “female.” But one thing which science and natural history have shown humankind is that the beauty and majesty that God Made took a very, very long time.
A few months ago, I did one of those commercial cave tours. The majestic formations take one tiny mineral bearing drop of water at a time depositing residue to form them, a tiny bit at a time over countless years. And although there is an unfortunate array of junk science theories out there which would attempt to disprove this, these massive cave formations that took such time are just another reminder of how I feel God Works. Of course, this is just one example, a glance at the knowledge available regarding how life has evolved would be another.
In my belief, to God, everything is “now.” No past or future, just one time. I have no idea how that is, but have long since accepted the entire concept of God’s Time and our time as not being congruent. That being stated, I hold firm to the belief that whenever we are in a situation where we feel as if God is not hearing us, or has forsaken us, it is merely because for whatever reason – be it personal growth we have yet to experience, the life of another we were meant to impact or influence, or simply an opportunity we are not yet ready for – it can enable us to develop more patience about any situation.
I cannot count the times when I have been waiting for one thing to happen, and as a direct result of that wait, blessings and opportunities I might not have otherwise had entered into my life. It is due to those that I no longer desire to nor feel a need for my concept of time and God’s to constantly match up but elect to trust that in the right time the best for everyone will come to pass. Worrying about when it will happen or how will not cause whatever we hope for to happen more expeditiously; all worrying will do is cause unwanted stress. God is Infinitely more Insightful and Imaginative and Wise and Creative than we could ever imagine being.
2. Pray and take action as needed, but remember that “a watched pot never boils.”
I have to revisit what I was referring to earlier regarding praying. Prayer is wonderful and an extremely useful method to remain focused on that which we would like to see in our lives as well as a way to ensure that we are mindful and aware of the times in which we ourselves need to take action as a means to the longings of our heart becoming manifest in reality.
But as with anything, whether it is the amounts in a recipe, the amount of pressure applied to something to shape rather than break it, or the amount of color in a design, it too can be overdone. I know there is the verse some refer which suggests to “pray without ceasing”, but I feel that is merely referring to always being aware of God’s Presence at all times.
It can be oh so tempting when something we are hoping for and waiting on is not coming to pass to begin what I refer to as “praying in vain repetition” to mean – to continually pray the same prayers for the same outcome over and over. I have never had it result in anything I was waiting on to arrive any faster. What I have discovered that it can do is to continue to perpetuate and reinforce in my thoughts that sense of lacking that which I desire. It can also be a distraction for other aspects of our life requiring our attention.
Equally as unproductive is what I refer to as “trying too hard.” Every single time I have been constantly focused on a dream, a goal, or something I was patiently waiting for, it seemed to be further and further away. What I always strive to do when I step back and catch myself focusing too intently is to seek ways I can help someone else, or just go about other responsibilities. Lo and behold, the minute I stop trying to make something happen and take action to make the best of what I do have and feeling and expressing gratitude for that, something happens.
Prayer is wonderful, even when it only serves to reassure us that an answer will come even when it has not yet arrived. So by all means, pray. And take action as needed; make certain you have done all that you can on your part, as prayer without action is in my experience not nearly as meaningful or effective for us nor those around us. Take a stance that it is not a matter of “if” something will come to pass, but “when.” But be willing to let go of the concept of “when” things will improve, and focus on the “now,” and making the best of each moment. This brings me to number three:
3. Be fully present, and be still and know. As tempting as it may be at times to just want to “phone it in” during times when things are not progressing as quickly as we might wish or going as smoothly as we hoped, this to me is an ideal time to seek to locate all of the blessings in the moment.
A perfect analogy from my own life was a time when I was out of work, and despite pounding the pavement and likely being responsible for the death of many trees due to the volume of hard copy resumes I was submitting, I simply could not find work at all through any channel. Someone suggested that while I was waiting to try doing some volunteer work, so I took it on as if it were a full time job.
And what a blessing that ended up being! Not only was I able to utilize the skills I had to help others, I met a great many like-minded new friends and kindred spirits, and located a brand new opportunity for a full time job. I did not wait to get a new job to be happy, I just made the decision to focus on being grateful for what I did have, and share it with others.
So many times when I made a conscious decision to remain in the moment rather than waiting for things I wished to have happen, so many unexpected blessings came of it. Had I gotten a job instead at that time, sure, it would have been easier to pay the bills for a few months, but I would have missed out on such a wealth of things that no amount of money could ever purchase.
Taking that extra effort was work I needed to do. I needed that input and that time to grow spiritually, and in retrospect, I now know God Knew I needed it. So whenever there is a time of waiting, seize the moment. Rather than spend time wondering when something you are waiting on will arrive, seek ways to live each and every moment to the fullest and take advantage of the blessings that could be directly in front of you now!
4. Learn to embrace every step of the process and the journey. I know that in my own spiritual journey, I encountered struggles and I know that I am not the only bisexual who has, and not the only LGBT person who has. Just when I was certain I had let go of the internalized fear and shame which was a result of listening to the views and opinions of others which at one time had created a false sense of distance between myself and God’s Love, some comment or some action by another would cause those negative feelings to resurface.
I remember one night in prayer when I was first coming to accept myself as I am asking God, “Why can’t this just stop? When will I be strong enough to maintain confidence and not allow anything to shake my faith?” The very next day, I had the displeasure of yet another hateful e-mail from someone who had exalted and appointed themselves as a messenger of the old hateful God I was letting go of, and ended up getting so angry over it that I shut off the computer and decided to spend the afternoon hanging out with some friends who I knew would not be judgmental.
There were only five of us in the little bisexual support group, and all of us just called an informal chat over coffee. Once I shared my own lament about the cyber bomb in my inbox that morning, all four of the others shared a similar story. We then proceeded to share stories we had heard from other LGBT individuals about the same type of instances. None of us liked the state of things, and we were all there just to support and comfort one another.
Nothing changed. There were still those who hated us for who we are, who continued to attempt to force hateful and ignorant views on us. And we all knew there was still a long way to go. But we were all there for one another, even if it was a scant few of us at the time. We were there to comfort and support each other, and any others who needed us. Although we realized the journey we all were on to greater acceptance and understanding would require patience, we were grateful to all be on it together.
And that is one blessing that I personally feel that anyone in the LGBT Community should always feel grateful for as we patiently make progress; the strength we have in bonding together, working together and being there for one another. It is not too unlike being in a hellacious traffic jam for hours with a good friend or loved one, or waiting hours at the doctor’s office with an insightful read we cannot put down in that even if progress seems slow towards a goal, if we fill our thoughts with that which inspires, encourages and enriches us and makes us feel closer to God, a long wait need not be unbearable and unpleasant. This brings me to my final point:
5. When all else seems to fail, be grateful for each step, no matter how small. Reflecting once again on how things are in the current world where we have come to expect “instant gratification” to be so prevalent, it makes my memory stir of times when things were not always so darned convenient.
Sure, picking out a card to send someone, writing it, addressing it and mailing it (or having someone do the same for you) was not as efficient and effortless as sending an e-card or e-mail, but wasn’t that effort something enjoyable? Sure, it takes time to make a home cooked cake from scratch rather than popping something in the microwave for a few minutes, but think of the fun it can provide, the smells and the aromas, and the sense of putting more effort into things. And I am sure there are many of us who recall that even though we likely got our first bite from the impatience bug in those seemingly endless hours in between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, that the excitement and the anticipation leading up to it was fantastic as well.
That which we want in life which is truly worthwhile is to me not only worth waiting for but worth making the extra effort for.
I know that for all of us in the LGBT Community that reaching a place of full equality, acceptance and value in a world where we have been seen as the “lesser than” for far too long can get frustrated beyond belief at times. For those of us who dare to joyfully affirm that we are not only LGBT but Christian as well, and that we acknowledge that we were not only Created by but are Loved by a God of Unconditional Love may feel even greater frustration, as so many in so many churches do not only not always extend a sense of welcoming inclusion, but some even actively campaign against it. It is all too easy at times to place emphasis on how far we have to go than to focus on how far we have come, and how much there is to be truly grateful for.
Yet, look at how far things have progressed. And consider the passion with which so many of us have put into bringing some of that growth about, those of us who have chosen to accept and love ourselves as God Created us to be, and who have refused to give up in the face of adversity, but rather have endured and continue to steadfastly.
Even if sometimes it feels as if the LGBT Community is still on the outside at times, we all have one another and together we continue taking that one more step towards greater acceptance. Each step is one more towards the vision of Love and Harmony that I feel Christ Taught is possible and that I sincerely believe God Intends for us all.
Those five thoughts, or affirmations have been useful for me in times when life was feeling like a long wait, and I would hope they might offer some encouragement to others.
Whether it is something we say our own type of prayer for, something we are merely expressing our desire to God for through a sense of need or longing, or something we have always wanted that seems long overdue, struggling with the wait and trusting in God that we will endure with love, patience and perseverance can pose a challenge to anyone. I think that sometimes the delays we experience, or seem to experience are not meant as some might assume or allege to “test” our faith in God, but instead to strengthen it. Patience not only requires us to put our trust in God’s Love, but it also can drive us to do great things, to encourage and inspire us to grow spiritually and enjoy all of the blessings in the journey of this gift of life.
There are many things I feel as if the wait for in life resembles the worst possible scenario at the DMV or doctor’s office with no magazines save for a few dog eared copies of Highlights or the same copy of WebMD we have seen a thousand times. There are days when I sometimes do wish that the mountains that my faith can move in time did not seem so tall, but at the same time I am grateful for all that I already have and have accomplished and attempt to embrace each day as one more step closer to the things I wait with loving patience for, be it something as vast as a long awaited opportunity or as small as some reassuring word from another.
I acknowledge that it will take time for sexual orientation to be viewed as the non-issue that I feel it is and for no one’s sexuality to be viewed as “unnatural” or an “abomination” by another who does not understand it. I acknowledge that the type of full and complete acceptance of all of us in the LGBT Community that I pray for still requires loving patience and perseverance and a tremendous measure of faith. And I also acknowledge that the day when a bisexual like me in honest committed relationships with both a woman and a man is not seen as inferior or flawed by most of society rather than the blessing from God I know it is may require a very long and patient wait. I know that an ever greater prayer I pray, that no one judge anyone but all of us accept one another as we are and everyone is seen as an equal and valued child of God regardless of any division we might perceive could require more years than I will be living in this body.
All of these things are to me, truly worth waiting for, and I honestly do believe that the very best things in life are truly worth both waiting and working for. I have complete faith that they will eventually come to pass, in God’s Time. These and whatever desires or dreams myself or others might hold fast to their heart and protected in their soul may take a longer time than I may perceive than I could wait for them, but the key is loving patience, putting God first, doing what I can, enjoying the journey, and never giving up.
But there is a wonderful blessing that is fully accessible at this moment to everyone, that no one need take some cosmic “number” nor wait in line for. The greatest blessing of all is that no matter where we are in life, no matter how far away a sense of peace, or a given goal, or whatever it is we wait patiently on might seem, that neither myself nor anyone is required to wait for the full knowledge and blissful awareness that regardless of how anyone might elect to judge us that God Loves us just as we are with an Unconditional Love that we as spiritual beings having a human experience are just beginning as a whole to awaken and relate to. We do not have to wait for God to be there for us, God is always and Has always been there for us, within us. God is With us when we are patient or impatient, when we jump too quickly or not soon enough, or when our timing is spot on or misses the mark.
God is There now; in the Loving Teachings of Christ, in the strength and resilience of Spirit we feel that gives us courage in the face of trials and adversity, in the love we show to one another, and in all of life; all we need to is say “Yes!” and open our hearts, minds and souls to the fact that no matter how things may seem, we are Loved Unconditionally.
Once we cease on waiting to embrace that awareness, something miraculous can happen. Regardless of how distant our goal – whatever it is – may seem, no matter how long we have hoped for something, we can truly begin to arrive at a sense of no longer worrying about when, but being grateful for the gift of the present and cherishing each moment. And once that happens, we wonder how we could have waited so long to realize that regardless of whatever struggles or adversity we face in life, God will Always Guide us to where we want and need to be, all of the time, at precisely the right time when we need it most.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.