A few months back I was moving plants around my backyard. As I was toting a Geranium to a bench beneath some trees I looked into my overgrown garden and saw a new plant I didn't recognize. Usually I pull the invaders immediately, but for whatever reason I let this one keep growing. It had already grown so tall I figured I'd not thwart its plans for life and leave it alone. Sometimes I respect weeds for their tenacity. But I wasn't sure this was a weed, so I left it.
My word for 2018 is patience. The past few months God has continued to place that word in front of me through song, literature, weather, and random acts of kindness from people in my life. The quote that has sown this word into my heart is by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
This truth has resounded loudly in my heart this new year. January 1st brings the beauty and joy of a clean new start, which is normally accompanied by resolutions and goals, which are great. I have many hopes and prayers that in 2018 I will see my goals become realities. I think this is a good and positive way to sow productivity. But this quote is always in the forefront of my mind, warding off my desire for instant gratification, reminding me that growth requires patience.
And time. And steadfastness and persistence. Yes, goals are the end game, but in-between the conception of a goal and the achievement of a goal, there are many, many small steps to be taken. God lead me to Matthew 1 today and I understood the passage with new eyes. Matthew 1 recounts of the genealogy of Jesus. If I'm being totally honest, sometimes I don't even read Matthew 1 and I just go to Matthew 2 where the storyline starts. But today I didn't, and it was because God wanted me to see a new thing in the passage.
There are 42 generations of patriarchs from Abraham to Jesus. I'm no Bible scholar, so I don't know the average lifespan of men in the Old Testament, but I think it's safe to assume most of them lived longer than our average lifespan. So that's a lot of years between Abraham and Jesus, the Savior of the world.
Why do you think God did that? Why do you think God intentionally waited 42 generations to bring Jesus into the picture? He's God. He could have put Jesus in history at any time. He could have just saved us all in a breath. But instead, he chose to plant a tiny seed in a long line of Israel's patriarchs. The seed quietly waited for years and years, and finally, 42 generations later, Christ, Immanuel, was born. Everything changed the moment Christ was born. Our world went from waiting, waiting, waiting.... to God with us. And again, God could have done that at any time. He didn't have to wait 42 generations. He didn't have to wait at all. But he did.
This is so profound to me. If the best thing that's ever happened to all of creation required years and years of preparation and waiting, then the Emerson quote means even more to me now, as I pursue my hopes and dreams for my life. God did not rush the introduction of Immanuel. He patiently waited until the exact right moment. This truth brings a rushing river of purpose to every single day that preceded Christ's birth, because every single day was leading to it. All the days that felt lost or disillusioned to those who proceeded Christ, held intense, beautiful purpose, even if they couldn't see it. If God waited through all those days to bring Christ here, then all of those days had an intricate purpose in bringing about God's ultimate goal, introducing salvation for all through Immanuel.
As I look at my list of goals for 2018 and beyond, I'm excited to see change. However, I know that for every day that I don't see growth and change, there is a purpose so deep for that waiting that if I sat at the bottom of it I'd be looking up to the summit of Mt. Everest. There is no boundary for God's goodness. Every single day of our lives is coated in grace upon grace even if we can't see it, even if we don't know what lies at the end of the waiting. All the waiting and hardship and suffering Christ's ancestors experienced holds so much beautiful purpose, because the best thing to ever happen to all of creation came from their journey through life!!!!!! THIS IS REMARKABLE!
In this moment, as I'm writing, I'm just sitting in wonder at the mystery of God's work. I'm now gazing out my window looking for agreement in creation--creation is the greatest evidence of God's beautiful, mysterious ways. Creation knows things we don't. Creation has no problem with waiting, with patience.
I'm looking at the barren trees, the blue sky, green blades of grass peeking through piles of leaves. My wonder is interrupted as I see a squirrel hopping around my backyard. Squirrels are so weird, am I right? They're such a pain - they get into my potted plants and spill soil everywhere. But okay they're also funny, because this little dude is currently hiding something in the grass and the sight of him moving his little arms so fast to hide his treasure is ridiculous to watch. This little squirrel is a minutia in creation, and yet he's here. He's part of the story of God's work on this earth.
"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
If we are prudent to listen, creation sings the mysterious rhythms of new growth. God waited through his own creation of the generations of man to bring a new thing, Immanuel, into our world, much like trees wait through winter for the new growth of spring. Winter has purpose in creation. It also has purpose in our lives.
I'm looking out my window again and remembering my garden. The other day I went to see just how unruly things had gotten over there, and I found that the little invader was no longer little, but big. I bent down to inspect the plant and what do I see but two tiny green tomatoes on the very top! What a beautiful surprise! I had not planted tomatoes in this garden for over a year, and when I did the plant died pretty quickly (I have bad luck with veggies). And here is this little tomato wonder who grew all by himself through months and months of quiet patience.
"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
Patience is my word for 2018, and I anticipate that having patience and adopting the original pace of life, the pace of nature, will make this the most beautiful and rewarding and fruitful year of my life.