I took time this evening to slip down to a small town just south of where I live; well over 150 years old, it still uses many of the original building, it is home to one of the top private universities in the state, and probably in the southeast. The type of town I wouldn’t mind raising a family. There are diners and ice cream shops, a cafe called Toast, which is next to The Soda Shop: you can buy locally roasted coffee beans and produce, and there are plenty of quiet places to walk and talk. More importantly, there is a coffee shop just across the street from campus with an area upstairs to sit and study that feels like you’re in Hogwarts – no joke. Everything is old and has a ton of character. There are large chairs and couches and desks that fold from the walls, typewriters and low hanging lamps…
Over the past three years, I have found need to get away to calibrate myself and my motivation. Often this means sitting with a notebook, a conversation with a friend, or running. It begins with deflating my own expectations and simply waiting – I will hear what I need to hear in the way I need to hear it.
I watched people go by. A family walking down the street, people stopping to say hello, and some even with dogs, a father texting while his daughter kicked her feet on a bench behind him. People, all living, all going. Lives filled with importance all of their own, beauty of their own, hopes of their own. Whose world do we watch? On whose clock do we live? The thought that keeps ringing through my heart is that of timing… What I deem to be the proper time for something may not be God’s, and so I can set my watch accordingly, but I can never alter the dates circled on His calender.
We talk about faith in passing almost as though it is something that happens to us. It is not the belief that God can do anything, but that He will do something. Yet, the point where we find faith is not when we are waking up from the perfect sleep to a relaxing day, but when things come down to the wire. It’s the dose of reality that peels away the perfect faces and makes us realize how unable we have been all along. Remember this: often God’s timing involves preparing more than one heart for something – and this could be why at times we must wait, or at times He may be waiting on us to acknowledge Him so that we can grow into what we are to do.
The wire are those eleventh hour moments when we wonder when He will come and how, and perhaps this is what David was thinking when He wrote: “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (Psalm 121:1). When we feel our expectations violated, it is easy to feel unloved. In those moments patience becomes a burden and the truth of our faith starts to show: No, He won’t leave me or Does He care? It’s easy to forget that God is more concerned about our character than about our expectations – and often He operates on a completely different timing. We cannot work ourselves toward, nor force ourselves into, His timing – we must wait. We seek Him, but we wait too.
I left the coffee shop to walk along the deserted campus as the sun faded. The brick paths strewn under the arms of aged oaks, bats began to emerge from the church’s steeple and the eaves of the citadel. What has always struck me about the sunset is that it is only the illusion we love; the sun is still there, unmoved and unchanged, the earth has simply turned away from it. I don’t see this as a metaphor for our lives and the silence of God, because when the sun has passed we find ourselves staring into something far more beautiful and far more vast. The expanse of our knowledge of the universe that becomes a brush against the fabric of His love; in each night sky a thousand suns, all in time, all to see.
I come back to this point because I struggle in it: perhaps the nature of the road I walk, or by the road of I have traveled. I have plans and dreams for the future, ambitions and goals, but often they feel out of reach and it’s easy to feel isolated in them and discouraged – still I am taking most of March to finish some projects and right now my coffee table is covered with manuscript drafts and notes, books and pens… Things have not turned out how I planned, but they are becoming something more than I could have imagined.
The answer always comes back to a position of humility, not because there is a lack of self-pride, but true humility is the agreement with this simple truth: Him. I am drawn back to Colossians 3:23: “do all things as unto the Lord”, because this is the anvil on which our ambition is formed – the fundamental truth that changes everything.
it looks like it is going to rain.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:14