A Wild Patience

Rev. Dr. Michael Tino

A wild patience has taken me this far/as if I had to bring to shore/a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor/old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books/tossed in the prow/some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades. -Adrienne Rich, Integrity

Patience is a spiritual virtue worth cultivating, and yet it is something in short supply in my life right now. Last night’s news from my former home state of North Carolina is just the latest in a long string of insults to all people who believe that love is love.  And as a gay man of faith, a part of my heart is torn out every time another vote is taken to declare my love to be inferior.

It’s hard to muster patience when your civil rights—or the rights of those you love and care about—are on the line.  It’s hard to muster patience when the list of states banning same-sex marriage in their constitutions steadily grows and grows.  It’s hard to muster patience when lawmakers fail again and again to have the courage to pass even simple legislation to, for example, ensure workplace non-discrimination for LGBT people.

It’s hard to keep repeating to myself Theodore Parker’s assertion from so long ago that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  That quote has long been a mantra of mine and yet with every passing election, with every legislative session, with every disappointing vote, it becomes harder to say, harder to believe, harder to force myself to think about.

And yet with every vote, it becomes more important to say.  It becomes more important to remind myself of the truth in that statement.  It is as if I am breathing necessary oxygen on the ember of hope that burns within me, keeping it glowing so that it might one day become a flame. And so, I practice patience.

And then today, our President announced that his “evolving” views on same-sex marriage had evolved some more.  Did I hear this correctly?  The President of the United States contradicted 61% of the voters in an important swing state?  Maybe that moral arc of the universe will bend towards justice after all.

And so it is that I realize that what needs to be cultivated is not mere patience, but a wild patience.

A wild patience that knows when it’s time to wait, and when it’s time to act. A wild patience that sits sometimes, spreading healing balm on burned skin, and gets up sometimes to build, to work, to do. A wild patience that knows the difference between faith and resignation, that keeps the ember glowing amidst the howling storm, that steers the boat toward the shores of tomorrow.

Yes, hope is here.  Love and justice are coming.  Their arrival requires patience.  Their arrival requires waiting, and breathing, and letting things go. And it also requires hard work.

May we find in ourselves both the patience to wait and the impatience to do what must be done. This year, let us be wildly patient together.


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