The white progress bar at the top of my phone screen hesitates, glitches, halts. “Forget it.” I grumble aloud in frustration. This happens almost every time I try to watch one of those Instagram “stories.” They freeze up, usually when I am about to understand what the point is – but, in every case, at least for me, the point is this: I want Instagram, and the rest of my life for that matter, to be instant. And this is why I find the following story, which I heard in Spain this summer, so captivating.
Aaron is an American pastor who left his home country to study Spanish and eventually to pastor a small, Protestant church in a largely secular, culturally Roman Catholic part of Southern Spain. He serves on a Serge mission team. Last summer I sat down with Aaron for dinner around 11 p.m. in a quintessential Spanish square. It was surreal. Kids were running around everywhere – splashing in the fountain, swinging on the swings, sliding down the metals slides, which had finally cooled from scalding hot in the day’s blazing sun. I asked Aaron how he had adjusted to the culture here. He responded with a supreme understatement as I would find out. “Slowly,” he said. He went on to elaborate, telling me this story:
Road cycling is a popular sport in this part of Spain, where the hilly terrain makes for tough and interesting rides. Aaron was already an accomplished athlete and so when he arrived in Spain he started riding with a group of Spaniards. They rode fast and hard, but Aaron kept up with them and even functioned well in the peloton with them, rotating up to the place in the front of the pack—blocking the headwind—and then moving to the back to rest. Aaron knew Spanish at this point and could communicate with his fellow cyclists, and sought to build some kind of relationship. But here’s the thing—no one ever addressed him or said a word to him—for FIVE YEARS!
I asked if he was joking, but Aaron had grown so used to this, had such a level of patience flowing in his veins by now, that my incredulity drew a curious look from him.
For five years, Aaron rode with these same guys. The group he joined was already familiar with each other. Many of them grew up together, shared family members, but when it came to Aaron, no one ever talked to him. That is, until one day, after five years of patience.
The group was out on a regular ride when one of the cyclists had an accident. It was bad. Aaron was the first to respond and helped the man get an ambulance and the help he needed. After five years of patience with the cold shoulder, Aaron still responded with love. This was not lost on the Spanish road racers, one of whom, in his lycra shorts and team jersey (they all had matching jerseys, except for Aaron of course), spoke to Aaron for the first time: “Gracias.”
On the next ride, the group of Spaniards were waiting for him. They handed him a team jersey, complete with his name on the back to match the rest of the team. The group clipped in and they rode out together.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love. – Colossians 3:12
>> For other vignettes on the fruit of the Spirit, explore our current blog series (love, joy, kindness, faithfulness) or sign up in the upper right hand column of this page so you don’t miss the upcoming post on the elusive fruit of “self-control.”