Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Thou...Flexible & Patient

"If you want to grow, you must be willing to stretch." — Anonymous

If you asked me what qualities are necessary for a missionary to possess, flexibility and patience would be near the top of my list. 

I was reminded yesterday of the importance of these qualities in a conversation with a fellow missionary. They shared that plans, affecting multiple people, had to be re-set because of another's changing schedule. 

"Be firm on principle but flexible on method." ~ Zig Ziglar

When you live in a different culture, come from a different country and background, speak a different language, work with people with different priorities - flexibility and patience are absolutely necessary. 
"Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed." ~ Jason Kravitz  

One of my favorite sayings here in Uganda, is "Hurry up and wait." The boat may leave anywhere between 8:30-9:30 a.m., and a 45-minute journey can stretch into a couple of hours. The meeting you were invited to will likely begin at least an hour later than the announced time. One day the Internet or phone network can work "perfectly," and the next day, they appear "broken." Electrical power nor water are assumed constants - they may or may not be available. Project plans and budgets cannot be set in stone. It seems there are more factors to consider here - weather, family, other relationships, education, understanding (or the lack of it), shortage of resources or manpower, others' plans and ideas, etc. Any one of these things can derail a "plan." 

Schedules and expectations have to be fluid in Uganda (and probably in most of Africa) or you will get out of joint very quickly. I am not saying this is bad, and it actually lends a more laid-back lifestyle. But for those of us who are used to a different way of life, it can take some getting used to.

"Thus, flexibility, as displayed by water, is a sign of life. Rigidity, its opposite, is an indicator of death." ~ Anthony Lawlor 

My personality loves routine. I like to know what is happening and when. I prefer to have a schedule so I can get the most accomplished. I find comfort and security in these things. I am learning, sometimes painfully, that time and routine are not top priorities in Uganda. I like to laughingly say, "I'm flexible - just don't bend me the wrong way." ; )

"One minute of patience, ten years of peace." ~ Greek Proverb

Patience is another valuable quality, not only on the missionfield, but anywhere. Patience is trusting that God remains in control, when situations or people may seem "off kilter." To lack patience is to lack trust in a sovereign God. I frequently marvel at our Creator's incredible patience as I read the accounts of the Israelite people and their rebellion, captivities, etc. Phew! God has an abundance of patience - not just for His "chosen people," but for you and I, too. You will give up on yourself much sooner than God ever will.

"Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength." ~ Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
Like most character qualities, flexibility and patience have to be tested and stretched to truly grow.

"Patience is the companion of wisdom." ~ Saint Augustine

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  - James 1:2-4 "Patience" in other versions is translated "steadfastness," "perseverance" or "endurance."
"Hope is patience with the lamp lit." ~ Tertullian

This morning I read in my Bible commentary, accompanying Acts 5, that "The purpose of life is to glorify God by building character through truth."

When God is developing our flexibility and patience, it is important to remember these truths: 1. He is good and always brings about good, 2. He knows my situation and is sovereign, 3. His glory is more important than my comfort or happiness.

"Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things - with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope." ~ Corazon Aquino

My friend Flex, who accompanied me to Uganda, is good picture of flexibility, thus earning him his name. He is made of rubber and he can be pushed and pulled in varying contortions. Yet, he always maintains a smile on his face.

If you are learning the lessons of flexibility and patience - take heart. God remains in control and if you trust Him, He will stretch and strengthen you, molding you into an even greater witness for Him!

"The principle part of faith is patience ~ George MacDonald
Quote Sources: www.finestquotes.com, www.characterjournal.com
Image Source: Microsoft Office Clipart


  1. That's really true! A lot of our stuff broke all the time in Egypt and in Sudan, and when we called people to fix them, sometimes they'd say they would come but they wouldn't. Lots of times our internet would be out or we'd call the taxi driver and he wouldn't come. Patience is really needed, and I'm not so good at being patient. Guess I'll have to work on that. ;)

  2. Kendra, I knew other missionaries could relate to my post. :) Patience is one of the qualities I really need work on. Perhaps that is one reason God has me here. :) Thanks for commenting!

  3. I found you on The High Calling and LOVE all your quotes. I may steal "I'm flexible just don't bend me the wrong way" because that's so me, too.

    I'll be back for more.


  4. Sally, I am glad you found me via The High Calling. You are very welcome to "Journey of Faith." Yes, "steal" away! :)