We live in a fast-food, express lane world. We have instant cash machines in grocery stores, drive-through banking, one hour cleaning, jiffy lubrication for our cars and overnight delivery of mail. We seem to be in a constant rush. The virtue of patience and waiting holds little value, considered more a distraction than an attribute.
In the Exodus 23, God is giving instructions to the Israelites about how he is going to help them overcome the people who occupy the land he has prepared for them. He says he is not going to drive out the occupiers in a single year. “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” He explains that if he drove them out immediately, the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for the Israelites to handle.
God designed us to grow little by little from infancy to childhood, from childhood to puberty, from puberty to adulthood, from early adulthood to maturity. Shortening the process will not lead to the desired outcome of maturity and wisdom. How often have we seen the fame accompanying a child actress or the instant wealth accruing to a gifted collegiate athlete gone professional lead to a disastrous result?
Our daughter Emily was born with Down syndrome. One of the characteristics of children with Down syndrome is that they experience delays in their development. That first step takes a little longer. First words come a little slower and physical coordination can take time, but each milestone is accompanied with much rejoicing and a sure sense of achievement.
Ironically the Lord calls each of us to seek him eagerly, but then often has us wait to see the fruit. St. Paul acknowledges that even “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” so that “it [creation] may be liberated from the bondage of decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19, 21)
We who accept God’s offer to dwell in us are the sons and daughters of God being revealed generation upon generation to liberate this created world from its bondage to sin and decay. It is a long term process, but the benefits can last an eternity — for us, our families, our colleagues, our workplaces and the world around us. It is noteworthy that of the fifteen characteristics St. Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first is patience. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind…”
The question is can we abide by God’s timing of what he wants to accomplish through us? While we are looking for instant success, God realizes that we often need preparation to do what he has put before us. “Little by little” he prepares us, or the hearts of the people he wants us to reach, so we need to be patient with God to provide the circumstances for us to act.
Several years ago, one of my daughters made a plaque with beautiful calligraphy for my den. It reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I gaze on it each morning while I meet Jesus for coffee and wait on the quiet whisper of his will.