For those who don’t know (despite my persistent flat Northern vowels, which I have no inclination to change) I live in Plymouth. A few years ago I used to work for the council and was blessed enough to be able to walk to the seafront in my lunch hour. One day, I was wandering towards the Hoe with some workmates, eating sausage and chips (child’s portion – I’m not an animal) when we were approached by a small but determined group of Australian tourists.
“Excuse me – can you tell me where Drake’s Statue is?”
Now for those that don’t know, there is a rather magnificent statue of Sir Francis Drake on the Hoe looking out to sea, keeping an eye out for the Spanish Armada before he went out to give them a jolly good rubbishing on behalf of Queen Elizabeth and all that is good in the world etc.
“Yes, we really want to see the statue and the bowling green where he finished a game of bowls before going out to beat the Armada because he was so confident of the win.”
So we all smile benignly, because these people don’t need to know that the Armada, already weakened by the weather, probably didn’t get to the sound – attacking further up the coast and that the bowling green story has no contemporary source (Although, there is a bowling green there so who knows?) Still we point the nice people in the right direction and wish them a nice day until one or group shouts after them
“Course you know it’s all gold-plated b******s don’t you” (Sorry)
Maybe it’s because you don’t appreciate heroes in your own land or maybe it’s because of his dealings in piracy and a dodgy execution of one of his men but Drake doesn’t always have the same impact here as he maybe does in other places. (I’m not sure that it helped calling the shopping centre after him either) But, in my advent book this week Tom Wright quoted a prayer by Drake (which actually probably isn’t by Drake but let’s not get into that again)
O Lord God,
when thou givest to thy servants
to endeavour any great matter,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of the same unto the end,
until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory;
through him who for the finishing of thy work
laid down his life, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
— after Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596)
Wright has been examining patience this week which I wasn’t looking forward to, as it is an alien land to me. Yet I was impressed by the idea that patience and faith in God could be expressed not just in a passive, “waiting for God to rescue” kind of vibe but by continuing the work you were given to do, by finishing what you started and by carrying on what you are doing. And, as we continue to keep on keeping on in our lives, we are developing a kind of patience. We wait for God to intervene, to bless, to bring wisdom to our situations. We wait but we carry on.
I don’t think I ever thought of this as a kind of patience but it is isn’t it? To wait for God to intervene in your situation yet still doing the things that go into living – still serving, still working, still continuing to be where you feel he has put you – without running amok and demanding that God deal with your stuff NOW otherwise you are going to fold your arms and let someone else get on with it.
The thing about this is that you also have to have faith that God has not forgotten, that he is not taken up with the noisier guys and that your patience has been spotted which is also quite difficult. But (to go a bit Christmassy) I think about Elizabeth, knocking on a bit, faithfully with her husband Zechariah who served in the temple. Keeping on with the job they had been given, yet never forgotten
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.— Luke 1:13–15