It was one of those quiet fall, evenings. Quiet until the dogs began to go crazy. Outside we went to see what deserved such a ferocious response. There he was, the largest turtle I had ever seen sitting in our drive, immobilized by the fear of the barking dogs. One thing was clear, this turtle knew where he wanted to go. It may take him a while, but he was going to get there. Checking back an hour or so later, he was nowhere to be found.
He reminded me that somethings in life simply cannot be rushed. I am finding that to be more true than I care to admit. Diets or “Lifestyle changes”, learning a foreign language, a graduate degree, learning to play a musical instrument, learning new job skills, building friendships, grieving the loss of a relationship and growing spiritually, they all require commitment and time.
I am reminded of a friend who lost her husband in late May. Seeing her in July, she was trying to find her way without him. The grief was strong. She asked “Will this ever get better?” “Yes, it takes time,” offered a friend who had walked this path before.
I am most inclined to be impatient. I want it, and I want it now. The reality is that when I insist on taking short cuts, doing it quickly, I will miss out on some of the best God has to offer. Then I realize this is not my struggle alone, this is a common reality among God’s children. Listen to the Apostle Paul.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
Spiritual growth takes time and it calls for surrender. Paul knew what he wanted, yet he engaged life with an eternal perspective. Paul is saying that he could see that God had begun a good work in these new Christians, but he also shared that some work remained. Paul was absolutely convinced that God would continue to create. We need Paul’s eternal perspective; believing that God is constantly creating us, and continually drawing us out of chaos, shaping us into the chosen people, God’s beloved.
God doesn’t always work as quickly as I would like Him too. In 1992 Father Greg Boyle started a ministry to gang members called Homeboy Industries. Through this ministry, Father Boyle takes gang members off the street and helps them begin a productive life away from the influence of gangs. This work takes time. In his book Tattoos on the Heart, Boyle shares how after years of work he was finally going to baptize Jose, a former gang member. Only to receive a call that Jose, on his way home from his baptism class was gunned down by former gang members. Rather than celebrating a baptism, Fr. Boyle found himself preparing for a funeral, and holding a weeping daughter as she learns of her father’s death. Boyle says, “we have to be committed to the slow work of God.”
As the turtle in our drive way, we have to know where home is and how to get there. There will be barking dogs serving as obstacles, but most times we need to get out of our own way and allow God the time and surrender to his careful work as he continually creates us into people who act more like Jesus. We need to be committed to the slow work of God.