Slow is not commonly accepted in our world today. We demand everything fast, immediate and perfect. If our expectations for how things should be done and how long it should take do them are not met, we are disappointed and frustrated.
This is not how God works. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
Last week we planted our winter garden: kale, collards, bibb lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, broccoli and winter squash. We started everything from seeds and though there was still some okra and a few peppers in the patch we knew the next few months were going to look pretty bare. Growing requires patience.
“Above all, trust the slow work of God.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Like Chardin, I believe we are naturally impatient and want to reach the end of things and skip the intermediate stages. We grow weary of the process and feel uncomfortable in “being on the way to something unknown, something new”.
I love to till the garden. There is an almost immediate gratification because you can point to the work you’ve done. There’s evidence of the work- the soil is turned up, free of rocks and ready to fertilize and plant. It’s rewarding because it’s visible. But what about the invisible work that’s being done?
Chardin continues by saying that “the law of all progress that it is made by passing through stages of instability– and that it may take a very long time”.
Uggh! That doesn’t sound like immediate gratification. I am both inspired and terrified by this statement- “stages of instability”. When thoughts or values feel undeveloped and wishy-washy in our minds; when we walk through seasons where it feels like we take 3 steps forward and 5 steps back; when we rehearse conversations and then play them back in our mind so many times that we forget what we’re even talking about- these are stages of instability.
We struggle to relinquish control and trust His good and perfect will being formed within us. We try and let go of our best ideas and intentions to make room for His perfect and patiently formed reality in the soil of our hearts. We, like tiny seeds are buried deep in the ground, surrounded by dark warmth, unaware of what is being done inside of us as we shed our former selves (these old shells) and branch outward and upward towards the light.
“And so let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (grace and circumstances) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”
The slow work of God is being done below the surface. The slow work of God requires us to lose control. The slow work of God feels unstable and suspenseful. The slow work of God is producing the life of Christ within us. Amen.