‘Please, be patient with me’: Spiritual homework for love and marriage

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The lyrics of Albertina Walker’s classic Black gospel song serve as a blueprint for negotiating the patience love and marriage require, writes Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner.

“Notes on faith” is theGrio’s inspirationalinterdenominational series featuring Black thought leaders across faiths.

“Please, be patient with me; God is not through with me yet.” My wife and I chuckle whenever we hear this, one of our favorite classic Black gospel songs, because it is a sung refrain in our marriage, signaling the grace and growth we desire in intense moments. I begin to sing it, and when my wife notices it, we laugh to make a shift in our communication from passionate to compassionate.

Love and marriage, marital advice, faith and spirituality, spiritual marriage advice, how to be patient in marriage, please be patient with me, Albertina Walker, Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner, theGrio.com
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As my wife and I participate in the nuptials of dear friends this weekend and recognize the anniversary of Albertina Walker’s passing on October 8, the practice of extending and experiencing patience comes to mind. In the vast tapestry of gospel music, few voices resonate with the unyielding power and depth of Albertina Walker. Her voice was not just a sound but a profound experience, each note painted with the hues of life’s trials and triumphs. Deep yet soaring, Walker’s contralto voice bore the weight of histories, testimonies, and a legacy of Black resilience. It was a voice that carried the whispers of ancestors and the hopes of generations yet unborn.

Much like “safe words,” a musical device and “safe” musical passage is not merely a gospel tune or a familiar phrase to us. This song and message connect us to a rich tapestry of sonic history, cultural resistance, vast resourcefulness, and musical memories associated with Black spirituality. The melodies and rhythms of the song are more than musical elements; they are the reflections of generations of prayer, hope, and perseverance. As a testament to spiritual development, every note in “Please Be Patient with Me” is a plea, a promise, and a proclamation. It speaks of a faith that is always evolving, always seeking, always growing, always downloading, and ever upgrading.

In this spirit, I reflect on the personal homework that continues when we are committed to partnership, the hardest skill to develop being that of patience.

As we think about this song, it transports us to our childhoods and church mothers in their Sunday church hats, the realm of our becoming.

Patience muscles seem to be simultaneously challenged and developed most when we are in union with one another, learning about assumptions and the ability to hear another person clearly. For newlyweds and seasoned lovers: How often do we intentionally pause and take our time in intense moments as we seek understanding from our partners? Patience is a critical skill needed in loving each other well.

I am grateful for the demonstration of my parents, who have been married 51 years and counting. My mum said to me, “Whoever you marry will be very patient, as it takes that to walk alongside a Skinner.”

In her own way, my mother highlighted for me personality traits that resemble my pop’s personality – and prompted me to pay attention to how those traits work in relationships. My parents’ transparency about their relationship has been helpful to my wife and me in considering how we experience each other.

When we truly consider the message of this song: “I shall come forth like pure gold,” I can’t emphasize enough the merits of ongoing refinement through reflection and receptivity to advice from loved ones, beautifying who we are in the world. We think about that collective work and the exuberance that comes with who we are destined to be. In what ways do we actively reflect on our family histories, how we are socialized, and the personalities we bring into the families we are designing?

We have come to realize that doing the ongoing homework toward evolving spiritually is essential. Developing the critical skills of assuming the best in each other, communicating what is important to each of us, supporting each other’s passions, and respecting and celebrating who we are individually has been most empowering for our journey.

I am thankful for that prophetic word my mother spoke into my life; my wife is the manifested answer to her prayer for my life.

The beautiful yet unexpected part about the character and personality cultivated in marriage is how it transfers insights and improves our interactions outside the home. As a church leader, I exercise much patience with us church folks; I tell you, “church folk” can try every nerve — truly, they “make me wanna holla, how they do my life!” However, I am now able to draw on the salve of patience I experience and extend in my private life to understand how to demonstrate grace with the people I serve.

Make no mistake: tears and frustrations come with the process. And, of course, sometimes we may long to complete the process or reach a point of personal satisfaction or a specific goal, only to realize we have much further to climb. Going the distance is the process through which patience is developed.

However, a saying I would often hear the older saints say, “I may not be where I want to be…” prompts us to stop and engage in the journey’s process; those moments when you recognize within yourself a sense of dread because you have not reached the heights you feel you have attained. Shift your self-talk. Be kind to yourself and say, “Please be patient with me; God is not through with me yet.”

Rest assured that transformation is a sweet reward for submitting to that refinement process. We can look back on our union to behold how each of us has emerged as a new person.

May we see we embrace the journey towards who we are 

May we view what is yet and feel connected to what it shall be 

For what is affirmed in sacred text, “I shall come forward as refined gold.”

Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner is dedicated to empowering frontline communities in Knoxville, Tenn. and the United Kingdom. He uses Faith and Policy to address energy justice, criminal justice reform, voter education/mobilization, electoral politics, and global affairs. Along with his wife, Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones, they lead InSight Initiative, a consulting firm focusing on capacity building and live events production.

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