Many years ago my grandchildren were big fans of Thomas the Tank Engine. I still remember from those days a song that I heard multiple times from that show which said “Patience is a virtue.” I wish all of us pandemic-weary people could take that advice to heart.
Biblically two of my favorite verses proclaim the same advice. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10) And “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31)
Be still and wait; two things that we instant gratification Americans are very poor at doing, especially 12 long months into a pandemic. I get that, and I too am tired of masking and sanitizing my hands every whip stich. So I understand why some impatient governors have lifted all restrictions even as health experts urge them not to.
I understand why we cold northerners want to flock to warm, sunny beaches for spring break. I get it, but it is too soon. We are able now to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but it is still a long way for us to journey before we get to the light.
One of my literary heroes is Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. I wish I could be more like carefree and adventurous Zorba, but it is Nikos, the narrator of the story and Zorba’s companion that I really identify with.
There’s a moment in the Zorba story where Nikos finds a cocoon with a butterfly just beginning to emerge. Seeing the butterfly struggling to be born Nikos holds the cocoon in the palm of his hand and blows his warm breath on it to speed up the process, which it does. But then to Nikos’ horror the beautiful butterfly struggles to unfurl its wings, but because it has been born prematurely its wings are stuck together and will not spread out. The butterfly dies there in Nikos’ hand.
In the musical made about Zorba it is there that Nikos’ sings a lament called “The Butterfly” which includes these lyrics:
“Every man/woman has a moment and I’m waiting for mine, when I’m finally free.
But I mustn’t be hurried.
Give me light…give me time.
Like the butterfly…
Not too fast, not too fast,
Let it grow, let it last,
Nature knows when and why… Think about the story of the butterfly.”
Here’s the rest of what Isaiah says in 40:31: “but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”
This is one of those times when we need to be still and wait patiently.