PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Patience Is Truly A Virtue

I walked  in my own shoes today for the first time in 10 weeks.

I have to admit, I was surprised it took so long. My foot surgery was the first time I have had an operation on a bone or joint, other than a rather minor medial meniscus repair on my knee. So I either wasn’t listening carefully enough or else operating under my own delusions when my podiatrist explained the procedure and recovery time to me.

I heard “eight weeks,” and to me that meant “in eight weeks you will be back to normal” not “in eight weeks you will begin the journey back to normal, but it will take a lot of time to become fully mobile and to heal completely.”

By now, however, I have figured out that it will almost literally be two steps forward and one step back as I slowly work on getting back up to speed. Because my repair included several parts of my foot (I have four incisions on four different areas of my foot/ankle), I have to do some physical therapy, work on regaining strength and balance and ease back into full use and mobility.

My tendency, unfortunately, is to try to push things, perhaps faster than I ought. I was a good girl the first eight weeks — I listened to everything I was told and I did it. But when I became aware that my vision of what it meant to get better in eight weeks was different than what my doctor intended, I have to admit it got a bit harder to be patient.

On my vacation to Cape Cod, I know I was a bit more aggressive than I should have been walking in my boot and as a result, I had to deal more swelling and pain, taking me that step back after taking a few too many steps forward in my boot. However, now that I am home, I am back with the program, taking a few steps in my shoes, as prescribed, driving at last and keeping my foot up and resting it as much as possible. That is the only way I will get better.

Patience in any situation is hard, especially when we have been patient for a while and things aren’t moving as fast as we hoped they would. In our instant gratification society, where we get frustrated waiting for a computer to boot up if it takes more than a few seconds, it is hard to be inactive. It is hard to wait. Our prayers in times like this become, “Lord, I want patience, and I want it now!”

This struggle with patience and waiting has probably never been more present in our world collectively than it is now. Many of us were good the first few months of the pandemic, hoping things would move along quicker than they have. But right about now, as cases surge and the death toll mounts and things seem to be getting worse in our country rather than better, our nerves are frayed, our emotions overwhelmed and we want it all to be over NOW.

But pushing things along faster, following our own agenda, rather than listening to the doctors, won’t make things better. We can’t will it. We can’t force it. Science and medicine have a way of trumping our agenda, no matter how strong our desire for normalcy is.

As we deal with all of this uncertainty and try to figure out how we will continue to forge ahead when we are so ready to be over it but the virus and the damage it can wreak is far from over, I am planning on leaning in to one of my favorite Bible passages.

The people of Judah were in exile and wondering when they would be able to return home to Jerusalem, which had been destroyed in their absence. They have reached the end of their ropes, struggling to have hope as they feel abandoned, alone and desperate.

The prophet Isaiah gives them a word to which they cling as they long for the day when all that they are experiencing in exile will end and they will begin anew. He reminds them of what they already know — who God is and what God does, writing to them in Isaiah 40:28-31:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Those same words come to us as we enter the sixth month of our exile. It may seem endless and at times hopeless, but the same God who gave comfort to the people in Babloyonian exile reminds us that at times we may grow weary and faint, but when we wait with God, we will renew our strength.

We wait with God by spending time in prayer and investing in the Word. We wait with God by trusting the scientific facts God has revealed to us by faithful health-care professionals and following through on them. We wait with God by staying engaged with the world but not consumed by it. We wait with God by reaching out to others either to give or to receive encouragement through the phone, texts, letters or emails. We wait with God by clinging to our faith when we feel overwhelmed, knowing  that God holds on to us.

God promises that when we wait with our Lord, power will be given to the weary and strength to the exhausted. That does not mean that we will always feel like flying high like an eagle or running and not being tired.

But it does mean that when we wait with God, rather than doing this on our own, we shall be able to move forward without falling over. We will be able to walk and not faint. And some days, just knowing that is enough.


O God of hope, lift us out of our despondency and help us to trust in you. When we feel overwhelmed and defeated, remind us that you are true to your promises and that when we wait with you, you will renew our strength. Let us rest in the comfort of knowing that when we can neither fly nor run, that you will renew our strength and help us walk without fainting. In the name of the one who did not faint upon the cross but rose up to give us New Life we pray. Amen.

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