Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Confessions of an Impatient Priest
(Slowly, Slowly Catch the Monkey)

At a dear friend's wedding, the father of the bride shared a South African saying with a group of friends gathered around him: "Slowly, slowly catch the monkey, one step at a time."

Slowly, slowly catch the monkey.

At the time, I took away only the most obvious meaning of the words: "one step at a time."  I heard the proverb as a call to patience and perseverance.  You know, the tortoise and the hare.  Duly noted and I moved on.

Then yesterday, the proverb strangely seemed to fit a handful of highly varied situations related to my priestly calling: finishing the parochial report (slowly, slowly...), playing phone tag with parishioners and diocesan leaders (slowly, slowly...), sitting on "hold" as I spoke on the phone while reserving the space for our Vestry Spring Retreat and again in order to make an insurance adjustment (slowly, slowly), rescheduling (postponing) meetings that are probably overdue (slowly, slowly...), and finally praying at the hospital bedside of a friend and parishioner for the second time in three days, with his children gathered around him.  "I anoint you (again) in the Name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..."  Slowly, slowly... painfully, slowly...

And in that final moment, it hit me: DUH!  Slowly means perseverance, yes, but also that if you simply chased the monkey, of course he'd run off and up the tree.  Slowly, slowly.

Suddenly, a few verses hit me hard:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." [Matthew 10:16]  (Because monkey-catching requires stealth and wisdom.)

And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”  Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  [Mark 8:24-25] (Because Jesus was not unfamiliar with healings that take time.)

And finally,

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  [Romans 8:22]  (The very essence of healing taking time, with the process an inextricable part of the ending.)

All of them, in their own ways, reminders that something in the time itself it takes to heal that is called to be part of the healing: "and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation." [2 Peter 3:15]

Peter, reminding me that, exactly when things are slowest, take the longest, the patience of God is revealed because the Lord does not want any to perish.  Therefore, says St Peter, "regard the patience of our Lord as salvation."

Slowly, slowly... catch the monkey.


  1. Thanks, Bryce! Dying to find a way to share a lunch sometime. Miss you, friend.