Hi, my name is Sam and I’ve been part of Bridgeway for the past four years now. I am a member of our LIFE group and am also one of the staff for Stanford A2. This is my reflection.
As I was thinking about verses that have been speaking to me during this time, I noticed that they all had a similar theme: patience. It was especially relevant for me as I continued to wrestle with this pandemic and quarantine myself from others. It’s been more than 5 months since we’ve sheltered in place, and through that time, God has been teaching me to be patient through His word and through our past church sermons.
In Romans 5, Paul talks about how suffering leads to endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
For me, I wanted to share how I was able to experience something similar, but in particular, how solitude has produced patience, and patience has produced hope.
If you know me, you know I enjoy spending time and socializing with others a lot, especially late at night. When this pandemic first hit, I thought I could keep it up and handle it well. Just the novelty of being sheltered in place seemed exciting and new. I could work from home. I had an excuse to catch up with old friends more easily through zoom. And I could save time from not having to commute. But that feeling quickly died down and dissolved into a lack of motivation. I began experiencing no separation between my work and personal life and also no separation between my work clothes and sleep clothes. The news was depressing to read and every moment of hope I had that the pandemic would end soon quickly faded as more things continued to get postponed, and around a month in, I began to recognize my own spiritual poverty.
But through His word, I knew it was ok to feel the way I felt, although ultimately, it wasn’t the way God intended for me to live. It started when I reflected back on the various disciplines pastor Chris talked about during lent last spring, of which silence and solitude stood out to me the most, simply because it was the hardest for me to practice. In Matthew, Jesus says to go to your room and shut the door and pray in secret. And that’s what I started doing.
Practicing more silence and solitude has helped me realize how much time I get distracted thinking about work and how much I get distracted by my phone. It has also helped point out how easily I can idolize busyness by seeing how much importance I placed in how busy I was.
Practicing solitude has also made me more sensitive to my own sins and weaknesses.
In the book Celebration of Discipline, which also talks about spiritual disciplines, the author writes about how once we cultivate an inner solitude and silence, it can set us free from loneliness and fear. Psalm 46:10 tells us that “be still and know that I am God.” It reassures us that we are never alone.
A month later, I started to make a few changes. I first got a haircut, one that was long overdue. I started resuming my daily habits like putting on my contacts and brushing my teeth in the morning. I started quitting slack promptly at the same time each day and removed the app from my phone to less distract myself of work. Although small, these changes helped establish routine in my life, but more importantly, it has helped me stay disciplined and turn my lack of motivation into a persistent patience.
A few months back, I was struck by the story pastor Soon Tee shared Admiral Stockdale’s story. When asked who were the ones who died first, he explains “oh that’s easy, it was the optimists.” As counterintuitive as it sounds, Stockdale explains, which is known as the stockdale paradox, that “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time…
You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
And as I recalled that story, although we were not in the middle of a war, I realized how relevant it was to our current times. And really the takeaway for me was not to turn into a pessimist but to be even more patient.
I began to become more aware that this was what God wanted me to practice. It became a repeated theme. Pastor Soon Tee previously preached about how Esther was patient when she fasted for three days. Later, Pastor Chris preached on waiting on the LORD, and in Isaiah 40:31 it says “but they 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”. In order for God to renew our strength, we need to know God’s strength and at the same time, know our own despair.
Lastly, continuing to maintain a long distance relationship has also forced me to be patient and trust in God during this time.
Going back to the stockdale paradox, it says “we must retain faith that you will prevail in the end”, and for me, it is the hope I place in God that has allowed me to endure with patience.
Slowly, as I continued to practice patience, the less I became preoccupied by my own anxieties and worries and the more I became sensitive to the things going on around me. Despite the endless noise and overwhelming news about what’s happening to the world, God has given me more discernment in identifying where to focus my attention. As a result, it has led me to make an effort to donate supplies and food for others in need, to support a compassion child along with the rest of my LIFE small group, and to educate myself on matters of justice that I’ve been blind to.
It isn’t much and these have been the least I could do, but it has helped me to not just be concerned about my own life and learn what it means to count others more significant than myself.
Even though at times, I still struggle with how to spend my time or what to do with myself and lose hope because of the events happening in this world, I continue to press on with the strength God gives me. Not only do I need to be patient with myself, but I also need to be patient with God because he has been patient with me.
“Be still and know that I am God” says the psalmist. I remind myself of the truth of who God is and that He is not slow to fulfill his promise but is patient. It is God who will ultimately prevail and nothing, not even a pandemic, can prevent us from experiencing the hope that he has already given.