Years ago my grandparents began giving us Fruit of the Month to celebrate Birthdays, Holidays, and Christmas. It is such a fun gift. This month the box arrived with the most beautiful and delicious peaches.
With the first juicy bite I took I was transported back to being 4-years old. My family had moved a few months earlier from the US to England. My parents had taken me to our local town fair. There were carnival games to play, and you could even purchase a set of Paddington books and have Paddington himself sign them.
As we walked around surrounded by toys, games, candy and desserts, the thing that I wanted more than any toy or trinket was a peach. One of the games had as it's prize the most beautiful peaches I had ever seen. I could almost taste it as I looked longingly at it. It was all I could think about getting. I remember how strangely my Mom looked at me when I begged to play the game and win a peach.
Looking back, we had been shopping at the Air Force base commissary for the past few months, and most of our produce was canned. I so desperately wanted that fresh peach, and maybe even a taste of what my life had been like just a few months earlier..
How could my parents say no to such a sensible request? My Dad helped me play the game and I was soon holding that treasured prize. As I hungrily took my first bite, I felt such a deep sense of disappointment to realize that my peach wasn't ripe. It had a bit of a crunch and the taste was almost bland. It didn't have the amazing, intense sweetness that I had hoped. It felt like such a crushing blow. I'm pretty sure I stood there crying because the peach just wasn't as good as I thought it would be.
I had been dreaming of a peach like I ate this week, but instead I got a poor imitation lacking all the power, sweetness, and intensity. That peach didn't have enough time to get ripe, and I didn't know that giving it time would make all the difference.
I think the same is true in our character. There are times when waiting, or Patience is part of what takes us from a bland, weak expression of what we could be to the full, unique, complete us that God intended us to be.
Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. From an early age he knew through God's revelation that his family would bow down to him even though he was one of the youngest members of his family. His calling was to be a leader. Just knowing his calling wasn't enough. I would guess that when he shared his dreams with his brothers and his parents that he was testing the waters to figure out what to do with this idea. Even more, when his father gave him a special coat I'm sure he wore it with a big of a swagger maybe even thinking that this was the beginning of his being raised up to greatness . He must have been a little difficult to be around. He needed to have his character refined through patience before God was ready to use him and make his vision a reality. For Joseph patience didn't just feel like an interminable sentence, it actually was. He was forced to wait through situation that were dire time and again. He saw first hand that what others had planned for evil, God could use for good. When the time actually came for his family to bow down before him, he was no longer puffed up, or wanting to lord it over them. Instead he was quick to forgive them, and ready to love them deeply. Joseph acted like the kind of leader that you would naturally want to follow. He was filled with God's spirit.
You can see patience as a transformative agent in Moses' life as well. As a young man, I think he had a burning passion to see the people of Israel treated fairly, and free from oppression. I think this is why he kills an Egypt who was beating an Israelite. Deep within him was the calling to be a deliverer of the Israelites. The way that Moses might conceive freeing his people was different that what God had planned. It took years of exile before the time was right for God to use Moses to set His people free, and God had planned to to free his people in a way that relied on his power, not on their own. His plan included clues that would point not just to Moses as a deliverer but to Jesus as the once and for all deliverer. Through patience Moses had the opportunity to use his gifts with God's power behind them.
As I read through the stories of these heroes of faith and others, I would love to know what my giftedness is, and how God is calling me to use it, but I want to have patience. I want to be used in the fullness of God's timing. Without this reminder, I would be prone to press ahead on my own, plowing through life trying to foist my gifts into every situation. I would be trying to make myself something special, not pointing toward a God who is truly special. I would only get to be a unripe, bland, watered down version of who I could be.
My hope is that through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives we experience patience, and get to be ripe for God's using.