Out of the ground ADONAI, God, caused to grow every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food. Gen 2:9
I am in the midst of reading The In-Between by Jeff Goins. One paragraph in the first chapter stuck with me:
Watching a tree grow will likely drive you crazy. It’s a boring process if you stand there, impatiently tapping your foot, waiting for it to do something. But if you step away and come back later, you’ll be surprised to see something beautiful emerge. The fact is the plant is doing something: it’s growing. (p21)
The book is about the times in-between the great breakthroughs of life. It is about learning to profit from every day life, to slow down.
But due to a conversation I had yesterday evening, something different sprang from the page as I read above sentences.
Lately I have been writing about the fivefold ministry and its assignment. About the family of God. Being a fivefold minister by the grace of God, I long to reproduce myself and to equip the saints. My heart bleeds when I seemingly see no growth. Questions arise within me.
What do I do wrong? Do I scare people off with my personality? Are my actions and words in sync, so I am trustworthy and credible for the people? While it is a good thing to revisit my motives and stature in faith, I have to be careful that there is no pity party.
Or is the problem not on my side in the first place? Is this the time when the people just want their ears tickled? When change is a swearword? Am I experiencing what Jesus had in mind when he said: will there be faith when I return? Will you still be with me?
I am sure, both things are true: I am not at the point of my greatest impact yet as I still have to grow and change. And some people just do not want to change, they want to sooth their conscious.
But reading about watching trees grow, I realized something. It hit me like a four-by-four.
Growth is a process, and it sometimes is a very slow process.
My son had a terrible accident some years ago. Going through recovery with him, we at times felt stuck with no progress what so ever. But when people came around that had not seen him for a few months, they were blown away by the change that had taken place. The benefit of distance and time.
I am impatient. Both with me and others. I watch myself crawl closer to God, and I watch others seemingly stay where they are. And the closer I look the less movement I see. If I allowed some distance and some time, I would be astonished and blown away about the changes.
Because, if we let him, God causes to grow every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food.
Don’t understand me wrong. I do not propose to sit back and do nothing. I propose a relaxed cooperation with God out of rest. Others will be instrumental, especially fivefold ministers, as they are called to be God’s tools of equipment. But often we want it instant, hic et nunc, here and now, and doubt when it is not happening.
This is one of the paradoxes of the bible, it seems. Because what it boils down to is to expect and have faith for the breakthroughs and the suddenlies, yet be patient in the in-between, the sometimes dull now of day-to-day life. Too soon we fall prey to what the bible predicts: hope deferred makes the heart sick. Maybe remedy is just to stand back and compare longer stretches of time. Where have I been with this a year ago? Five, ten years ago? Thank God, I have changed.
I am reminded of the words in Jeremiah: build houses, settle down, marry, go to school and get your degree, work, look after the good of the city – because I know what plans I have for you, plans for the good. When you call on me, I will gather you, end the exile, and bring you back. Jer 29:4-15
God tells them to live life until. Until the 70 years were full and they could be brought back. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until. Until the day of pentecost had fully come. In the meantime, live a godly life and bring things in order. Just grow. Just follow the Lord and his purpose in your life, and you will grow. And the suddenlies will happen.
It is time to sit back and relax, to go about living life, to make the minor adjustments needed, to follow the lead of the Spirit from a pasture of rest. And in all of that, not to forget that we serve a God of the miraculous. Expect the great. Expect the breakthroughs, great and small, both in you and the people around you. Expect the suddenlies.
In the days ahead, revisit some of the trees you have watched growing in the past and have lost sight of. You might be blown away by what you see. Maybe they withered away, but just maybe …
Never forget: Jesus has done it all. It is a finished work, founded in heaven, to be established on earth.