Before gathering to discuss our week on “patience” last night, everyone had an assignment: bring to the dinner table at least item from God’s creation that you would say has intricate design. (I had to define “intricate”…which took some patience to achieve). So in addition to slices of pizza, the patio table accumulated flowers, a fern frond, a strawberry, a blueberry, a “pokey leaf from a holly bush,” and fire (yes, from the middle schooler). We examined the intricate details of each one and pondered the details God put into every design.
Then for a little imagination, I asked, “do you think that each one of these came out exactly like this the first time God made them?” Food for thought. I mean, what if when God created the blueberry it came out more like a radish? He doesn’t sin. And He doesn’t make mistakes. Could he not have looked at the radish with as much joy as He had when He got to the blueberry?
This exercise was not intended to be lesson from Genesis as much as it was to have my family think about God’s patience with us as He nurtures us toward what He desires.
In my masters program, I had the honor of sitting under Walter Brueggemann for a couple of OT courses. He always amazed me with the way the ancient Hebrew people valued concrete imagery in their lessons about God. I remember the day he spoke on a text from Psalm 103:8…
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
That phrase slow to anger (arek–ap) is a Hebrew idiom directly translated as long nostrils. So if we translate this section of the verse literally, it reads: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, He has a long nose, and is abounding in love.
My kids burst out laughing at this point…never imagining God as Kilroy.
But here’s the deal…the Hebrew image was like picturing God as a fire-breathing dragon. But this isn’t just any dragon…even though He gets angry, He is so full of lovingkindness and his nose is so long, that when He becomes angry the fire is nothing but a puff of smoke by the time it reaches the end. He tempers His anger with His patience, for the benefit of the ones He calls His children.
Whether we count to 10, inhale deeply/exhale slowly, take a walk to cool down or find another medium, we would all do well to find a practical, initial alternative to retaliation. Doing so, keeps the relationship intact, and honors the other person. It gives us time to process the truth and to pray about appropriate and just responses. This is what God does for us. So we are surely called to model this for those around us.
What do you find yourself nurturing this week: a child, a family, a marriage, an employee, a staff, a paper, a sermon, an account? You might try imagining yourself a bit more like Pinocchio. And remember…you and I have been honored to be a part of the creative process; however we are ultimately not in charge. The outcome may take a another path and may be different (and better) than what we had in mind.