Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
A few weeks ago, a friend of ours on the PTO asked me if I would help put together a video for Juliette Low Elementary school. The idea was that parents would film their children singing the song Jingle Bells and then the different videos would get stitched together into one larger video. This way all the kids could participate from their homes and be part of a much larger collaboration.
On the surface, this might sound easy. In reality, it is a bit of a logistical nightmare. The reason why it’s so challenging is the same reason why we have talented musicians like Adam Hendrickson and Chris Urban to lead our music programs. Without their presence to lead our music, everybody would be singing our hymns at different tempos. Have you ever been in church when everyone is not singing in sync? It sounds horrible.
So we found a video on YouTube that would allow the singers to follow along. The kids listen to the song on headphones and sing along while their parents record it on their phones. Simple enough, right? Except for the fact that many parents did not read or follow the directions. Several of them just told their kids to sing Jingle Bells at their own pace.
I was unaware of this until I started creating the video. I received 23 recordings in all. The first thing I had to do was to align all the videos with the YouTube song. This is when I realized the audio was not lining up. Ultimately, I discovered half had not followed the instructions. This meant that this editing job, which I estimated was going to take 2 hours, ballooned into 8 hours.
As a result, I could not simply follow the song and insert people where it made sense. I had to figure out if there was a part of their recording that matched the tempo of the YouTube clip. All of a sudden, this small favor was becoming a big arduous task.
Have you ever had something like this happen to you? Someone asks you to do something as a favor. You perform the cost-benefit analysis in your mind and agree, thinking you will have to sacrifice a certain amount of time and energy. However, what you weren’t anticipating is how your ability to help is really dependent on the actions of others. If it were just me, then it would have been no big deal. But it wasn’t just me. My ability to help with this video was dependent on the parents following instructions.
This is true of helping in general. When we reach out to help someone, the person who we’re helping needs to receive that help in order for it to be effective. When the person who you’re helping responds appropriately by taking your advice or utilizing your donated resources in the right way, helping feels fantastic. When the person who you’re helping doesn’t respond appropriately by ignoring your advice or squandering your resources, it can feel like a complete waste of time.
The truth is, helping is hard. This is why helping and patience go hand-in-hand. As James, Jesus’ brother, says in his letter, “…we call blessed those who showed endurance.” If you do not assume a measure of patience when you are helping others, if you are always looking for rapid results, then you will quickly find yourself frustrated. The more you experience frustration, the more cynicism sets in and the less likely you are to help in the future.
Advent is a time of waiting. A time of being patient as we await the birth of our Lord. That patience pays off in the long run, because although we may want to rush to Christmas day, the anticipation of his birth is what prepares us for the long journey ahead where Jesus entrusts us to be God’s helpers in the world. If we don’t learn the lesson of patience early, then we will never become the servants that Jesus expects us to be and the world will never change for the better.
On the other hand, if we learn the lesson that we need to be patient in the midst of help, if we don’t expect immediate results, then Jesus tells us that eventually our efforts will bear fruit thirty, sixty and one hundred fold. So below are the fruits of my patience. I hope it brings a little joy to your life. May you have a very merry Christmas!