Sunday, June 8, 2008

Learning hupomone

Unless you've ever taken an interest in Greek, or perhaps if you were a Theology major, you probably have no idea what hupomone is. Even I had no clue until I did a little bit of research on Wikipedia (what a fantastic website). That funny Greek word translates as endurance, or "patient endurance." The word combines hupo, "under," and mone, "to remain." It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat.

I consider myself to be a good person, usually seeking to do what is right and true. Now I often stumble, or veer from these good intentions, but ultimately my effort to do good remains. A big part of my inability to always do good lies in my glaring lack of patience....of hupomone. Unfortunately I am easily discouraged if I can not pick up something easily and quickly because often times I am able to learn new things in that way. The same principle, for me, applies to people. I admit that I can be quick to judge people, but have learned that giving people and other things a second look often leads to unexpected joy and success. To be honest, I should really be better at not judging people at first glance because I have heard on numerous occasions how people (many of whom are/were good friends) had a strong aversion to me at first meet but after taking a second look realized I'm not as bad as they originally thought.

So my patience isn't so strong and sometimes completely lacking. I am actively trying to work on this. A few weeks ago I was watching Evan Almighty and (I feel like I've posted this before but it works with the theme of the post so here it comes again :) there's a line about patience that really stuck with me: "When people pray to God for patience, do you think He just suddenly gives them patience or the opportunity to be patient?" Good point, right? So that's been in my mind lately, and then about a week and a half ago I believe God set a beautiful example of learning to be patience right across the table from me. In this case beautiful takes on double significance in that this opportunity to be patient is so beautifully constructed and is going to really teach me to endure and be patient...and at the same time this example manifests itself in the form of a beautiful woman: stunning outer beauty and from what I can tell, true inner beauty as well.

Fast forward to today, a week or so after God blesses me with this opportunity to learn and practice patience but also the chance to make a great new friend. Not only am I learning to exercise patience, but I truly feel God placed this girl in my life, at this time in my life, to draw me back closer to Him. She was a breath of fresh air into my life that's been more or less unfulfilling (if I'm completely honest) since I left college...and maybe even after my sophomore year. I've had fun, met new people, experienced and seen new things, but all the while He was absent. Not totally out of sight/out of mind, but not nearly as present as He used to be, and that's been of my own doing. Thinking back He's been that little internal voice that would say "maybe you shouldn't do this" or "have you thought through the consequences of that," trying to be the voice of reason, of caring, of love...and I wasn't listening. All God is trying to do is love us unconditionally, what the Greeks called agape but instead I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it...whether that was staying out too late after a Mariner's game on a work night and drinking way too much to go to work the next day, or dating someone without really knowing why or a variety of other poor choices.

Moving forward I'm really taking this all to heart: patience, endurance, love, not being impetuous, seeking to do good, listening (especially to that little voice inside of me), having fun but balancing that with my relationship with God. Have I done some things I'm not proud of in my life, unfortunately yes. Did many of those choices result from me relying solely on my own foolish and selfish desires, yes. Now I'm not saying that I can't think for myself anymore, or that I'm going to submit every and all decision to God. I don't think that's what he wants, otherwise why would we have such highly advanced and cognitive minds? I do think however, that He wants us to think things through and exercise more patience, diligence & restraint...and that's exactly what I'm hoping to do.

Its funny after writing all this to reflect on why I sat down to post: I thought it was just about this girl and how she was going to help teach me patience, when its more far reaching than that. Will she help me to learn more patience? I hope so, and in doing so I hope I get to know her better and get back into a better, closer relationship with God. But I'm also hoping this permeates into other areas of my life, strengthens other relationships, brings a stronger sense of purpose to what I'm doing with my career & ultimately fills my life with joy. I am also aware that I'm notorious for making promises and deals with myself about making significant personal changes and then not completely following through, but I think the fact that I'm posting about this so that others can hopefully read it and help keep me accountable is a positive step in reversing that trend. That and I've not felt God's direct presence in my life as strongly as I do now.

While I was thinking about all this, and patience, and how to put my thoughts into words, I discovered these verses online and found them all to have relevance to my life right now.

Hebrews 10:36 - "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise."
I felt this was the most overarching of the three verses, in that it applies to my life as a whole. The fact that I'm realizing my relationship with God has diminished, and wanting to restore that will ultimately benefit me throughout my life as I continue to endure and show patience.

Pslams 37:7 - "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes."
I thought this was very good for how to show patience even when others may be doing better than I am, whether at work, in relationships or whatever the case may be. I like to be right/win, and have a hard time accepting when I'm not/don't and someone is/does, but that's another part of showing patience...not worrying about what others are doing, enduring when I fail, and just striving to always do my best. And always knowing that regardless of the outcome, God loves me.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 - "The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride."

I thought this one applied well to the amazing new girl I recently met. I was so excited when we were talking because she's a very cool, chill girl, and I felt we hit it off pretty well. I'm still excited that she's in my life, and while at first I was all school boy giddy, now I'm more excited for the chance to form a worthwhile relationship. There is something different and special about her. I don't yet know how that's all going to play out, but I can tell its a good thing. In the past I would've been so initially excited by a girl liking me that I would've rushed into dating or getting validation that she liked me too that it would ultimately fail.

This time around, with this girl, I'm not going to press or try and force the issue. Doesn't mean I like her any less than girls in the past, it just means that instead of trying to force things into my timetable and my selfish wants, that I'm going to be patient and see what happens. Obviously I'm being vague and there are many details I'm leaving out here, but that's not for everyone to know. As with anyone new you meet, there are circumstances and things past that influence the present and the future. You can't plan when you meet new people, so you just have to put your hupomone to the test, and do your best to be understanding and supportive as these new relationships develop and you get to know each other better. Right now I'm excited to have a fun new friend who's helping me to get right with God (even if its indirectly), and I truly believe He had a hand in our paths crossing.

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