A couple days ago, I hopped into my Jeep and headed toward the gym. As I made the short jaunt, my radio was broadcasting an early morning political show. In the few moments I had from my home to the health center, I heard a brief discussion of the term “strategic patience.”
That fleeting phrase caught my ear as I rolled to my workout. As I exercised and eventually hit the steam room, it bounced around my brain (there’s a lot of empty space there for bouncing). As my day progressed, it occasionally haunted my thoughts. Strategic patience…
“A fancy term for doing nothing.”
Finally, it occurred to me that strategic patience can be a fancy term for doing nothing. In my younger days, it used to be called a “wait-and-see attitude.” At its best, it really does employ a certain amount of patience. At its worst, it’s political correctness run amok. We don’t want to do anything, so we’re going to put you off with this handy dandy, little term—strategic patience. It does have a certain ring to it.
It reminds me of a Christian man I once knew. He was extremely knowledgeable in the area of Holy Scripture. The local church recognized his expertise and asked him to teach a Sunday School class. His immediate answer was, “I’ll pray about it.”
That sounded good to everyone, so they gave him space and time to pray about it. When it came down to the deadline, they needed to have an answer. So they asked him again. His direct retort was, “I’m still praying about it.” Of course, the time for prayer had run out. They had to go in another direction.
They didn’t give up on him, however. Every year, for several years, they asked him if he would teach a Sunday School class. Every year his answer was the same—“I’ll pray about it.” He never did teach a Sunday School class.
“I’d rather not.”
He was good at strategic patience. He apparently didn’t want to give them an out and out “no.” So he used the phrase, “I’ll pray about it.” It does have a certain ring to it, does it not? He didn’t want to do anything, but he didn’t want to say, “I would rather not.”
It’s not only the politicians who “kick the can down the road.” Most of us seem to be pretty good at that tactic. We don’t want to be responsible. We don’t want the hassle. We don’t care to put in the time, the effort, or the hard work. So, we’ll opt for strategic patience. We’ll “pray” about it.
The time comes, whether in politics or spiritual matters, when we need to take a stand. I believe in prayer. I also believe in having patience. But I also believe in action. After we’ve prayed and patiently waited to see what develops and to understand certain situations as best we can, it’s time for battle.
Gird up your loins. Now is the accepted time. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]