To everything there is a season…He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:1,11
I get frustrated at long stop lights. I drum my fingers on the kitchen counter waiting for my soup to warm up in the microwave. I sent a package to a friend last week and he hasn’t said anything about yet, and it’s been four days!
When my sons were infants, I couldn’t wait until they were out of diapers. Then I couldn’t wait until they could get themselves out of their own car seat. Then I couldn’t wait for them to walk so that I wouldn’t have to carry them everywhere. Then I couldn’t’ wait for them to get their driver’s license so that I didn’t have to drive them everywhere. Then I couldn’t wait for them to move out of the house.
Now I am grateful when they call.
Patience has never been a virtuee of mine. I want to see immediate results. I am hell-bent in my desire to see the effect of my cause. I step on the bathroom scales and see that I need to lose weight so I go for a long walk and eat a light lunch and get back on the scales that evening and see no measurable change—I want to see results!
God has always dealt with me on His schedule, not mine. He works on me at His pace: S.l.o.w.l.y.
I want to have wisdom—quickly.
I want character—now.
I want integrity—at the end of this prayer.
I want virtue to govern my leadership—yesterday.
And yet it is true that God rarely gets in a hurry about anything.
Wendell Berry in an essay called A Country of Edges writes,
How the river works as a maker of the landscape, sculptor, and arm of creation will always remain to some degree unknown, for it works with immeasurable leisure and patience, and often it works in turmoil.
By what complex interaction of flowing water, of weather, of growth and decay was that cliff given its shape? Where did this house-sized boulder fall from, what manner of sledging and breaking did it do coming down, what effect has it had on the course of the stream? What is happening now in all the swirling rapids and falls and eddies and pools of the river in flood? We know the results. But because we have not a thousand years to sit and watch, because our perspective is not that of birds or fish or of the lichens on the cliff face but only of men, because the life of the Gorge has larger boundaries than the life of man, we know little of the process.
What a wonderful parable of how the topography of our lives might change. Imagine the river as the Holy Spirit, cutting, gouging, smoothing and bringing nutrients to our hidden parts. Imagine the rhythm of freezing/thawing and frost cracking open fissures of our character so that more Holy Water might seep and effect more erosion. Imagine the wind blowing the sand of—say a long traffic light or an incalcitrant child—across our lives to change us, to etch us, to deepen us.
What caused this house-sized tribulation to fall down the side-walls of my life? It has altered my life so that I am flowing a different way altogether. From my vantage I see no change, but I have only the point of view of the moment, for I lack the geological arc of my story. That is the gift of perspective.
I think I know what is needed to change the topography of my soul:
A Stubborn Sculptor
I have an Artist that is relentless in His creative pursuits of my soul. He chips away at my arrogance, hones down my pride and infuses my sloth with divine energy. He is fierce in His determination to create something out of my life.
When I was a boy I offered him a kaleidoscope of colors and designs He might use to add depth, hue and tone to my heart, but the older I got the more monochromatic and flat my soul became. Narcissim and sin have a way of reducing life to gray scale. Nothing is as boring as a sinner bent on ignoring the Artist.
For we are His workmanship…” Ephesians 2:10a
We have the fingerprints of God all over us. We not only have a stubborn artist we can offer a willing heart.
A semi-Soft Soul
The reason I say “semi” is because it has been my experience that His stubbornness is greater than mine. If I have just a little humility to offer Him and open my mind, emotions and will to His creativity, I have the opportunity to participate in the artistry of my life. His will is going to be done in my life with or without my cooperation. And every irritation, every conflict, every moment of joy or sadness are His invitation to join Him in the artistry of deep transformation.
In the Older Testament God spoke through his prophet to remind us of His commitment to us.
Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand… Jeremiah 18:6b
You have heard folks say about a person who might be young, innocent or naive that they are impressionable. I would say that as a follower of Jesus we are all impressionable to one degree or another. To the extent I offer my “impressionability” up the Artist the more profound the art of my soul.
That being said I must also say that if God is as relentless as I suspect He is, then even my stiff soul is being formed by Him—for He is stubborn that way.
What can I influence in this change process? Not much, actually. God is God and He has never needed or asked for my artistic input, thank you very much. He will fashion me to resemble His Son starting in this life and ending in eternity. (It’s a full-time job) So, I can’t influence God but I can cooperate with him and trust the process. And that is as far as I can go.
For grace is like water, it always follows the path of least resistance. And it is that flow of grace that changes me into a something of splendor. Slow change. Imperceptibly so, but change none-the-less.
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NRSV)
Time is on His side. It is His ally in my transformation. So, bring on the long traffic lights and slow microwaves; let’s see how God will use them to make me into something wonderful. Because more important that the deepening lines around my eyes and the graying of my beard is the transformation of my soul.
He is heaven-bent on that.