I moved to where I now live twenty-two years ago. It was a big jump. I moved from what I would call a more urban postage stamp yard to two acres in a more rural setting. In my postage stamp yard, I fell in love with the art of landscaping. There I found that I like making beauty with plants and trees. I like the design of landscaping, the theme of it, the joy I feel when I put a growing thing in the ground and then it starts to grow into a bigger, more attractive part of my overall landscape scheme. The plant literally begins to become part of my vision.
But it takes patience, patience that I sometimes don’t have.
When the seasons change, I sense an urgency to get things done. Each day that passes is a missed opportunity if I don’t make a decision about an area in my yard and begin to work up that area; if I don’t get the process of botanical beautification going.
God doesn’t work like that.
Pastor Mark Labberton’s book* at its core is a book about transformation. He calls all of the Christian community to get on board with helping those who are less fortunate. As I have blogged on the book, I have asked myself the same questions over and over again. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I feel a sense of need to help others? I know the needy people of the world are close to my location; why can’t I make a commitment to help them? Why can’t I love my neighbors? Why can’t I love my neighbor as I love myself?
Maybe I need to wait for God to show me; maybe that is how He works.
Labberton states “God does not. . .look at the human situation and see it with the same urgency that we do. We feel justified in crying ‘Fire! Fire!’ but God apparently does not. Our sense of timeliness, whether on an individual or global scale is baffled at times, angered by this approach to God’s part. . . Our instincts are to want God to take large, dramatic steps to eliminate the possibility of need and suffering…God does not work that way.”
God moves from the particular to the universal.
I have asked my pastor what our church can do to get people to come and worship with us, maybe on a regular basis, maybe to become members, active members. I am always bemused at her response. “They will come when their hearts tell them they need to come.”
She is willing to wait for transformation.
Transformation is not dictated by man’s timing. Transformation is dictated by God’s timing.
Labberton has a wonderful grasp of the Bible. Of course I can’t claim such knowledge. He points to humanity and the promise that God made to His people to change the world. He made a promise to Abram that was based on His vision of what man could be. Abram eventually responded by trusting God, and not taking action on his own. He became Abraham and this began the story of a new people. If you know anything about the Bible, you know that this was the beginning of a tediously slow process of transformation. At times the steps forward were totally obliterated by huge leaps backward.
But God has a vision for man. God knows what he is doing. It is man who is confused. It is man who is frustrated. It is man who looks at the clock and says “When? Now! Just do it!”
Isaiah 55:8 is often quoted when we get confused about God. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Indeed we don’t think like God. We can’t. From our perspective we may see need, we may feel moved to act, we may look for a way to change things, but all the pieces of the puzzle are not in place yet. God has not put them there for us.
We have to wait a little longer.
I sit at the kitchen table and the beautiful sun is flowing into the wide back door of my home, warming my back. I have the door open and I can hear the sounds of the world waking up. The many birds are singing their songs. A frog is chirping as he adds his melody to the mix. Outside beckons. The grass is growing, the soil is warming and it is time for things to be planted. I feel the itch to get outside and begin my “botanical beautification.”
I will wait. There are other things that must be done before I get there. It will be ok. God will provide opportunity if I just trust Him.
He is a great God, my God of transformation.
*The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor