Opening my email every day is like going on a treasure hunt. I have appreciated the stories people have entrusted to me as they hold a longing in their heart for a more vital walk with God than they are yet experiencing. I get to be with them in the darkness and encourage them as best I can to lean more deeply into God’s reality. Learning to do that always takes longer than people hope or want. It is easy to get frustrated as their options narrow and the fears begin to rise that maybe he is not there and is not drawing them toward himself. My heart breaks for them knowing they can’t yet see what is right in front of them, but I know Father is working and one day that work will surface in a way they can see, too.
Yes, it would be easier for us all if he would work faster, if he would function on our time instead of his. But he does not delay to make sport of us, only because he is doing something far deeper and far more profound than we can possibly imagine. He’s not just making the outside better, but liberating us from the inside so that we can live differently and more freely in him. He seems to enjoy that process. I thought about that last night as I waited endlessly for our new puppy to take care of business before we put her down for the night. It’s painstaking raising a puppy. It would be far easier just to get a dog after it’s already grown up a bit, but loving a puppy is so worth it, even for all the accidents and damaged shoes and furniture. Sara and I love the process of helping a puppy grow up into a treasured part of our household.
Would it be so strange that God would enjoy our growth, too? Yes, he knows the pain we’re in, but he’s not about alleviating the pain, he’s about transforming us so the pain no longer destroys us. I got an email the other day that spoke to the glorious way God works, and hopefully sets us at ease to let him do it, rather than living in the frustration of our own timeline:
Thank you for responding to my several emails throughout my journey. Your “work” (podcasts, books…) has been instrumental in my growth. When I first contacted you a few years back I was inquiring about how to find a fellowship of like-minded believers so I didn’t have to feel so alone. You told me to ask God. I did. Nothing happened. This confirmed my inner less-loved outlook (actually “Esau complex”) at the time. So I went into another downward spiral, one of hundreds if not thousands. The interesting thing is that I have not been able to quit God, though, I’ve tried.
Why would I want to keep coming back to a God whom I feels kicks me down and then kicks me when I’m down? It makes no logical sense whatsoever as I don’t have a victim mentality. Yet, it has all been part of a process of God answering my prayers. Looking back, you and Brad and your online community have been for a time those “bigger brothers” (and sisters) that I prayed about. I was not left totally alone. I have a “sister” in Christ whom I’ve shared my journey with since 2000. She lives in another state but we communicate frequently and have the kind of conversations you and Brad have. So, while God didn’t answer my fellowship prayer in the way I wanted, He did answer it.
I know you’re familiar with the book Tattoos of the Heart. In it, “G,” made a comment about “trusting the slow work of God.” Google informed me that it is a poem, which has brought me great comfort. I don’t feel like God’s cast-away any more. I don’t feel like Esau (I shared this with you once before), and while I still don’t feel “LOVED” not feeling hated is AMAZING. I trust that one day I will be able to feel the Father’s love because I am now able to recognize that He is doing this work in me, and He will complete it. Here is the poem.
Trust in the Slow Work of God
by Pierre Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest. This poem speaks to the sometimes excruciating experience of waiting on God.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
— acting on your own good will —
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in 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.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser. Amen.
Amen indeed! No matter what evidence you think you have to the contrary, he is at work in you and he will complete what he has begin and fulfill every longing he has put in your heart. It will go so much better for you if you can relax into his timeframe instead of trying to force your own. Remember, he’s not doing what is fast, but what is right, real, and enduring.
I’ve had many a pained email by those on the verge of giving up, thinking that God isn’t there or if he is, that he doesn’t care about them. Then months, sometimes years, later I get the triumphant email that comes when they finally see what he has been doing all along. It takes an amazing heart to hold a longing before God until his glory makes itself known. But the joy that follows knows no bounds.