Patient Discontent

By Cindy Koch

The invisible wall of generation usually keeps me on my side of the courtyard on Sunday mornings. Right after church, however, the central coffee station is a hustled mixture of young and old. And there the coffee flows, not quite quick enough for some of us. Waiting in line, we pass friendly smiles and sweet “How do you do’s?” But as soon as the divine liquid morning blessing fills our flimsy Styrofoam cup, we part ways back to our usual conversation spot.

This morning, you boldly stepped into my auto-pilot path. As I turned away from those shiny, silver carafes (decaf on the left—watch out for that one), your deep, direct smile captured my hurried step. I caught a glimpse of a youthful excited sparkle in your eyes. It seemed like they look pasted our Sunday morning script, piercing right through any small talk I could muster. The deep wrinkles of decades of smiles framed your gaze. Tears of a full life lived had cut even more tiny layers around those glittering eyes. Slowly and kindly, your faded lips spread into a beautiful smile when you found your way into my path this Sunday morning.

Our conversation was not long. It took less than five minutes. It took me more time that morning to wait in line for coffee. But your simple, clear words filled my morning. In fact, they will speak a lifetime to me.

I know you have had a good life. Your husband loved you until the end. You’ve appreciated the gifts of God since you were a child. You have a church that adores you, family that loves you, and even friends that pick you up since you have given up driving. You are extremely well-spoken. You are exceedingly gentle and seem to glow with joy. As amazing as you are, and is everything that your life has spoken on its own, that is not what I will hold in my heart the rest of my days.

Today I heard the impatient tension in the voice of a trusting child of God, a saint who is looking forward to an eternity with her savior but forced to live in a world increasing with pain. You are dependent on the rides and schedules of others. Your body is aching and moving slower. Your beloved husband now rests and has left you to struggle alone. Through an exhausted smile but with a tremble in your words, you said, “I can’t complain.”

Yes, you can, my sister, and I complain with you! When will this end? How long, O Lord? Hearing a stunning woman, so much more mature and careful than I will ever be, struggling alongside me in this world, striving for the same eternal hope of resurrection, will forever encourage my steps. It is not your amazing marriage and attention to the letter of the Law that has drawn me close. It is not your thoughtful walk and polished steps that have made you great in my memory. It is your expectation of a world better than this one, promised to come for both of us.

We are sisters in Christ, not because we do things a prescribed way, follow the rules as best we can, are blessed with particular gifts, or are simply joyful in times of trouble. We are sisters in Christ because Christ gave his future to you and me. We are sisters in Christ who see the terrible shortcomings and painful ways of the world we walk in. We are sisters in Christ who wait for a creation that is entirely good. We are sisters in Christ who wince at the sting of death and abandonment. But we are sisters in Christ who remind each other of the glorious Day of Christ’s return.

Our conversation was not long. It took less than five minutes. But your simple, clear words filled my morning with the hope of our new morning. Your struggle, your longing, your patient discontent will speak a lifetime to me.

One thought on “Patient Discontent

  1. Very moving article. Since I am 72 myself, and reasonably healthy, I do not have, as of yet, some of the infirmities which plague some of our elderly members in my Lutheran church, but I know there will be issues ahead. Anyone who grows old enough must pass through the final years with discomfort and too many visits to the doctor….and thus it is the way of all flesh. I love the old people who frequent our worship service every Sunday. Widows and widowers, some use walkers as they cheerfully make it up to the communion rail to receive the Eucharist. Old couples hold onto one another. Most of them have a friendly smile and one can tell they are genuinely happy to be in church, to be worshipping the Lord they have loved since their childhood. And despite their many illnesses and maladies, they seem to be at peace, a peace which God gives to His own. That we could all learn from them about life and facing mortality is a testament to God’s grace.

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