October 2, 2020

The Quietest Of Virtures

“There’s another quality that’s often overlooked in our collective vision of the future.”

Bill Knott

The first snowfall of October is dusting the cedars Jack planted as she awakens on Sabbath morning.

As she has done for eight years now, she reaches out to gently touch the pillow where he slept for 43 years. A tiny gesture of remembrance and grief, it’s one of many that will fill her seventh day. “If he were here,” she muses, “I’d smell the cinnamon buns he made each Friday afternoon.”

By 9:10, she is dressed for church, though the 2006 Ford Taurus won’t move from the garage again this week, the twenty-ninth Sabbath in a row. She settles into the office chair in the living room: as always, she’s the first one in the Zoom waiting room for Sabbath School. Soon, the familiar “ping” of arriving friends populates her screen and her heart. She’ll still be here, pouring love and laughter into the monitor until the last pre-recorded hymn of the worship service fades at 12:30, lingering in the community of young families, teenagers, children, and senior citizens who gather online.

“There’s another quality that’s often overlooked in our collective vision of the future.”

Here is the patience of the saints.

* * *

Elijah races through repairing the last battered television of Friday afternoon, eyeing the declining sun through bent antennas of a unit that may bring his boss 3000 Kenyan shillings.

His mind is leaping forward to the happy routines of Sabbath preparation: the six-kilometer bicycle trip to home; the herding of three siblings—5, 8, and 9—under the cold-water pump in the backyard for their Sabbath bath; the comforting routine of maize and rice—with bananas—that marks each Friday night.

At 17, he’s older brother, father, mother to a family devastated by AIDs and alcohol. The vision of a university degree in bioengineering that briefly flickered is long gone. Until his brother and two sisters are grown, he will be repairing televisions.

But there is still the AY group—28 Adventist teens who gather on their smartphones Friday nights to sing and laugh and pray and study the book of Daniel. This is, no doubt, the highlight of his week—the place where for a moment he is 17 again, and hopeful.

He slips the headphones on and settles into the aging armchair beside where Tumaini, Akeyo, and Makena dream.

Here is the patience of the saints.

* * *

Our heritage as Adventists reminds us forcefully of the qualities required to survive the prophesied calamities of the end-time. Faithfulness to Scripture; keeping Sabbath in our hearts and in our calendars; saying “no” to Babylon’s seductions in all its forms, in all its pleasantries—these are the watchwords of our chosen identity, the markers of our DNA.

But there’s another quality that’s often overlooked in our collective vision of the future, perhaps because it seems banal, unsung, and unremarkable.

We discount the “patience of the saints” the same way we walk past bargain bins at Walmart or delete the breathless retail messages that clutter up an inbox. Of course we must be patient, we conclude, for what choice do we have? It’s either patience or departure, endurance or apostasy.

But in the always-seeing mind of God, patience is the virtue that fits us best for heaven, the demonstration we have placed our trust in things unseen and truths we cannot touch.

Babylon is all about arranging futures for ourselves—in wealth, in pleasures, and in righteousness. The patience of the saints is what the choir of heaven celebrates and just what Jesus most desires for us; for it’s the clearest sign that we have left our schemes and foolish dreams and settled into Christ.

So here’s to all who wait with quietness and faith—to all the grieving and the lonely; to those who bear great burdens with great grace and heaven’s fortitude; to all who light our days with hope that gets us through the nights.

The future—and the kingdom—will be yours.

Bill Knott
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