A pastor friend of mine likes to say that God gave him several unique gifts – for instance, he can get by on four or five hours of sleep each night. English is not his native language, but he can pick up a new tongue like some guys can remember their girl friend’s name. But he opines, “One of the gifts God did not give me is patience.” Maybe you can relate to that.
In one pastoral assignment he had, he would preach three times every weekend. At 11:00 it was at his home church near Chicago, at 3:00 it was in a church with a congregation from Europe which spoke very little English, and at 7:00pm it was at a new church plant that he had been asked to oversee.
This evening, travelling toward the 7:00pm appointment, the traffic was especially heavy, and as he approached the final toll booth he was distressed to see long lines. Except at one lane. There was only one car…it seemed like a miracle. He scooted eagerly over into that lane. But as he pulled up behind the car it was evident this wasn’t going to be a quick transaction. Given the style of the driver’s hair, this was obviously a lady driving. And she was having a major event with her purse. Apparently she assumed there was money for the toll deep in its bowels but she couldn’t locate it.
The pastor became increasingly irritated. If she didn’t hurry he would be late. Finally she retrieved the right amount, rolled down her window, and tossed them into the basket. But some of them missed and rolled under her car. She began to back up, so he did, too. She located the errant coins and tossed them, accurately this time. Climbing back in her car and rolling up the window the pastor assumed she would finally zoom off down the road. But she began once again pawing through her cavernous purse. At the end of his patience now the pastor bellowed out, “Lady, would you get out of my way!” Fortunately the windows were up in both cars.
But the pastor’s wife had seen this mood before and she quietly replied, “I hope she isn’t sitting in the front row when we get to church.” After an interminable period of time the little lady found what she was seeking and handed a bill to the clerk in the toll booth. She got some change and ambled off down the highway.
Totally exasperated, the pastor pulled up to the booth and handed the clerk a $5 bill. The clerk apologized for the wait. She reported that the lady ahead had just received a call on her cell phone that her son had been involved in a serious accident. She was on her way to the hospital and was so rattled by it all she could hardly keep her mind on what she was doing. Then the clerk added, “And she asked me to apologize for the inconvenience and she paid your toll.”
It was really quiet in the car the rest of the way to church. The pastor was re-shaping his message. He decided to preach on patience. His point was that if we keep our hearts focused on Jesus – in any circumstance — He will give us the gift of patience. And he had a recent story to tell that illustrated his point.
By Don Jacobsen