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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The timing of God

Have you ever been frustrated with God's timing? I have. So many times. I'm thankful I have many, many stories I can look back on to verify that God's timing is perfect. He knows far better than I do when things should happen and how the amazing, intricate web of events that make up our lives should be coordinated.

I'm thinking about this today because I'm hearing lots of people grind and grumble about the snow that's falling. Yesterday as I was running errands and this storm was just beginning, the grocery store clerk, the lady who cut my hair, shoppers at the hardware store, and many others were expressing their distaste for snow in April. (I've also heard many, many people around here noting that a year ago, they had their docks in the lake already.)

This morning I've been taking advantage of the snow to handle some administrative details, surfing through old emails, planning future projects, doing my best to manage my work and my life and to communicate well. If the day stays like this, I'll add a few paragraphs to the manuscript I'm working on later. Eventually I'll need to go out and clear some snow, but there's not much point in that until the flakes slow down later this afternoon. So I'm doing indoor work by my window, sipping my Caribou Mahogany coffee, listening to John Mayer explain why he's not going to L.A. anymore.

The snow falling fast through the oaks and cedars looks like a snowglobe, like a perfectly gorgeous late November or early December day. And earlier this morning there, out of the trees across the meadow, up into my yard, came three deer -- Momma and the almost-grown twins. It was quite clear that they don't mind the snow at all as they paused to browse on the buckthorn at the bottom of my yard.

It strikes me that this lingering winter is such a parable for the timing of God. We get stuck in patterns, living in the chains of old life, and God grants a vision of what could be. We long for that vision, yearn for it, make ourselves sick wishing for it. Perhaps we even decide to force heaven's hand and make it happen. (One of my daughters started her garden indoors a few weeks ago, and now all her plants are too big for their tiny pots but she won't be able to put them out for weeks yet. Yikes!) Usually that effort to coerce God by my own efforts fails miserably, at least for me. I've seen enough Minnesota springs to know that early or late, there will come a remarkable change in the weather. The snow will disappear again in a matter of days, the soil will continue to warm up (which it's doing under all that frosty white stuff even as I write) and like a miracle, spring will come again. I love the way Solomon writes it, exactly capturing the spirit of joy and freedom that will appear in the next few weeks:

"My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.'" (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

Doesn't look much like that outside my window right now. Yes, last year March saw days in the 80's and spring came remarkably early. That doesn't mean God needs to make it happen just that way this year. Like those twins appearing in my yard this morning, God's promises are good, and he has good reasons for his timing. There will come a day his voice will speak clearly and he will say, "Ready? NOW!" and if we're paying attention, it will be time to act, time to move, in an attitude of submission to God's sovereignty and worship of his glory.

Until that day, remember that for Jesus' followers, waiting is never a passive thing. If God has you in a period of waiting right now, this is critically important. We wait actively. Waiting is a time to prepare, time to get ready for that day when God speaks his "Now!" Like the warming earth under the snow, like the sap rising in the frost-encrusted maples, like the deer calmly browsing through the buckthorn, waiting is an active time. The fledgling church in Acts 1 was waiting, by Jesus' command, for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yet in that throwaway chapter, they gathered together to strengthen relationships, they prayed, they dealt with leadership issues, they immersed themselves in the scriptures, so that when the Holy Spirit showed up, they were ready to leap forward in obedience.

God's timing is perfect. Trust him, and do what can be done in these days while you wait for spring.

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