But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” (Matthew 26:51–54 NLT)
There is a bit of folk etymology that states the word “saunter” comes from the Middle Ages, when people would regularly make pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The idea behind this theory is that when travelers passed through villages on their journey, they would be asked where they were headed, to which they would respond, “A la Sainte Terre” – “To the Holy Land.” Thus, they became known as sainte-terre-ers, or saunterers. Even though there is very little evidence this is actually a correct history of the origin of the word “saunter,” there is ring of truth to the idea that a slower pace is more akin to the speed we should travel when on our Christian journey.
Too many of us are like the title character in William Shakespeare’s play Richard II, who laments, “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” We don’t like to walk slowly or take our time; we want to be efficient so we can maximize our impact for the Kingdom. Why shouldn’t we want to do more for God in less time? Unfortunately, while the sentiment is good, the toll it takes on our souls is not. We forget that we are to be patient and follow God’s pace and timing in all things.
Ultimately, patience is about trust. We can be patient because we trust everything will be all right in the end and the results are worth waiting for.
The night of Jesus’s arrest, Peter did not have patience or trust in God’s timing. Even though he believed Jesus would usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth and he trusted Jesus was the Messiah and the kingdom of Rome would ultimately crumble at Christ’s feet, he did not understand the journey to this new reality would need to take what likely seemed an indirect route through Jesus’s arrest, trial, torture, and death on the cross. This is why, when Jesus and the disciples were confronted by a group of men in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and lashed out. In his mind, he probably thought he was helping Jesus usher in the Kingdom of God. Peter was moving at his own pace, which he thought was correct, rather than at God’s pace.
It was at this point that Jesus once again reminded Peter that God’s way, the way of the upside-down Kingdom, is not a path forged through violence but by turning the other cheek. It is not about speed but endurance and long-suffering. It is a journey that requires patience.
This is also a lesson Matt Canlis learned during his time in the small parish of Methlick, Scotland. As shown in the short film Godspeed, Matt needed to learn to walk instead of run; he needed to slow down so he could truly know others and be known by them. Only then could he truly be a conduit to making God’s Kingdom visible here on earth.
If God is moving at a saunter, we would do well to have patience and slow our pace to match his.