“Patient Vigor” for interesting times

“Patient Vigor” for interesting times

I love my job. I often awaken with gratitude welling up—this despite enormous stress throughout “our industry”: theological education.

Two years into the job, I sought out a spiritual director who wouldn’t hesitate to ask me tough questions. I figured I might be overlooking unexamined issues or unacknowledged angst.

But gratitude persists—and has been remarkably constant for four years as the prevailing energy that informs my life of prayer. Even so, it continues to surprise me—particularly in the dark times when tasks overwhelm, self-doubt looms or family and global crises invade.

One of the reasons gratitude pervades is that I am blessed to work in a mature, non-anxious community of faith. I am surrounded by colleagues whose patience, wisdom, love, devotion to God, creativity, kindness and peaceableness is profound.

Did I say patience? Yes. Patience!

Patience isn’t a quality I’m accustomed to reflect on much. It is listed among the fruit of the Spirit—but not one that stands out. Yet, according to church historian Alan Kreider, patience is at the heart of the early Christians’ missional and social strategy.

In a faculty conversation about the current tensions swirling around how we regard persons of same sex orientation, a colleague spoke of the need for “patient vigor.”

Patient vigor (as I understand it) means a willingness to listen calmly to each other, to the Scriptures, and to God’s Spirit rather than getting riled up by the polarizing, raucous clamor of the culture wars.

Patient vigor means listening to the full counsel of what is needed so that “every part is working properly, [promoting] the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Eph 4:16).

Patient vigor means courageously acting for justice and lovingly speaking the truth in the face of vicious attacks and mean spirited spurning of brothers and sisters.

Patient vigor means fearlessly living with unresolved questions even as we actively engage in compassionate hospitality and mission everywhere we live and work.

AMBS’s mission of reconciliation includes a readiness to resource the whole church during this time of intense, prayerful discernment. We recognize that as a church, we’ve allowed competing claims about what the Bible says to divide rather than unite us.

AMBS faculty have a profound respect for the Scripture’s power to reveal God in Christ to us—scriptures we must listen to over and over again, with vigorous patience, to discern the mind of Christ for these “interesting times.” The faculty have begun to provide resources that call us with patient vigor to:

  • Re-learn the spiritual disciplines necessary to hear God’s gracious Spirit in Scripture and in each other.
  • Listen to the full-orbed witness of Scripture with the best available skills of interpretation.
  • Prayerfully adopt a confessional posture in the midst of conflict.
  • Commit to pray for the well-being of our enemies, including those with whom we most vehemently disagree.
  • Be teachable—ready even to be broken open to receive a previously unrecognized word from the Lord: “You have heard it said… But I say to you….”
  • Locate our own stories within the arc of God’s Shalom Story.

As an Anabaptist learning community, we are unafraid of the hard questions. Instead, we are exhilarated by them—believing that the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit will unite our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I am grateful for faith communities who are learning that the Spirit’s precious and sweet fruit of patience is indispensable for discerning the mind of Christ—Christ “who has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Eph 1:14).

Sexuality conversation resources from the AMBS faculty are available in the Publishing and Research area.