Feeble Knees

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Long Time Coming

Some time ago, Mr. Feeble and I attended a talk given by David McCullough, the Pulitzer prize winning historian and author of such classics as Truman and John Adams. During his talk he told us that he wrote all of his manuscripts on a WWII-era manual typewriter. Given that Truman and John Adams each top one thousand pages, this is quite remarkable. When his children entreated him to get a computer so he could work faster, Mr. McCullough's response was adamant: "I don't want to go faster, I want to go slower!"

This one little comment has been reverberating in my head ever since.

I have an old laptop. Actually, it's Mr. Feeble's old laptop - his trusty old Apple G3 Powerbook. I love this thing. Unfortunately, time is marching on, software is getting faster and poor "LittleMac" isn't keeping stride. It's slow, sometimes painfully so. It really doesn't play nice with our wireless network (it took some careful hacking by Mr. Feeble to get it to recognize the wireless network at all). We've been oogling the new G5s, yet something in me can't let go of the poor little G3. Perhaps forty years from now my kids will shake their heads at me in disbelief, just like the McCullough children.

The older I get, the more I find myself appreciating things that take time. I could go to the corner florist to buy flowers, but how much more rewarding is it to plant and grow roses myself? Is there anything more decadent than the scent of home made bread in the oven or a home cooked meal on the stove? So how did it come to be that we've become a society that values speed over the deeply satisfying results of the work of our own hands?

We are told that anything worth having is worth waiting for. Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. Yet it seems in our increasingly accelerated culture that precious little is ever deferred. We have fast food, no-money down loans, buy now, pay later. What is lost in all this?

This desire for instant gratification is also to be found in our spiritual life. We want to be delivered NOW, we want God to answer our prayers NOW, we want all our family and friends to be saved NOW. We devour books that promise to give us instant results in Christian life. We expect sanctification in a flash. We nag God to act faster, reminding Him that since He is able to create the world and part the seas, then why won't He help us lose thirty pounds by next Tuesday at three?

The thought that God could fix our problems instantaneously, but frequently doesn't, gnaws at us. We get whiny. "Gooooooooooddd, can't you hear me?" "Gooooooooooooddd, don't you KNOW how much this means to me?"

In my twenties, I could not wait for God to unroll the master plan for my life at my feet. Surely He was going to let me know what He intended for my life, and it must be something good and Important. Like Moses on the mountain I waited and waited for direction. And I waited. And I waited. Ahem. "Helloooo? Jesus? Helloooo? Uh, I'm trying to be a sport about this, but uh, could you tell me the plan for my life now please? Really, I'd like to start getting to work on it, you know, because I just want to work for you..."

Ah, the bribe. The idea that we can weasel something out of God with the argument that we're just anxious to get busy for the Kingdom. That works about as well as trying to convince your mom those two cookies are really going to whet your appetite for dinner.

If next year you were going to develop a fatal cancer and die within six months, yet maintain a bold and unwavering faith in Jesus until the very end, would you be as anxious to get started right away? Oh, don't tell me that you would go joyfully into this crucible; it sounds good on paper until it becomes your real life at age forty, thirty three, twenty two, sixteen.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (NIV)Ecclesiastes 7:8

It seems lately that I am learning that there is time enough. This is radical, given that a few years ago I lived in fear that the big Time's Up buzzer in the sky was going to sound at any second, and you'd better darn well be ready or you were going to miss the big Rapture joyride in the sky. Around New England where I live, you can still occasionally spot the remnants of posters on bridges and lightposts that predicted the Rapture would occur on October 28th, 1997. Not that I believed any man knew the day or hour this would occur, but it did have the unsettling effect of creeping me out. At church.
we were warned over and over again about the maidens who fell asleep and didn't have any oil in their lampsMatthew 25:1-3 when the Bridegroom arrived, which had the unfortunate effect of generating more paranoid and erratic behavior than any actually productive work or effectiveness for the Kingdom. Jesus is coming back, Look Busy!

These days I'm not so much concerned with the business of my hands as the condition of my heart. Living this life, with all the myriads of people and situations in it takes time. My own growth and development seems so slow and at times downright stagnant, but I'm learning to trust God in this. I want to work slower, more thoughtfully; I want to choose my words and my actions with care.

Last year I bought some dried up looking cuttings from a plumeria plant. I dutifully planted them according to the instructions and waited. I watered. I fed. I waited. Soon crazy green leaves popped out of these wacky green sticks and grew and grew. My anticipation for the wonderfully spicy, fragrant blooms increased. Any day now! But they didn't come, not this season. Later I read that it can take a year or more for new cuttings to produce, you just had to keep at it and be patient. The potted cuttings are overwintering in our basement now, resting and building up strength for the big blooming push. Everything I provided this year, the watering, the feeding, the sunlight was not in vain. It will all in time produce the beauty that I long for.

Everything God has invested in us cannot fail to produce an end that is so much better than our beginnings. Nothing we've endured, studied, prayed, or hoped for will be in vain. Jesus, in time, will produce in us the beauty that He and we both long for.

We just have to be patient.

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