“Slow.” Such a nice, quiet word. An invitation to breathe deep, sigh a sigh of release, let go. I light a candle and put on quiet music and sit with my Bible and a calm hush comes over me. In that place of retreat from the chaos of the day, I feel safe and whole and true. And just a little bit smug. Because look at me, so good at being Still and Knowing God and how good am I at this Slow thing? So good.
But there is another Slow and that one I am not on such good terms with. It is the Slow of waiting on God to untangle the knots of relationships and circumstances that hurt. An ache behind my eyes, a weight on my chest, a lump in my throat that is so constant that I have forgotten what it feels like not to have these ever-present reminders that All is Not Right in my world. It is praying every prayer in every way I can formulate, laying the burdens at His feet, releasing all the things. I trust You, I say and I mean it, I do.
And I don’t.
Because what is the plan? And is there a timeline? How can I know any of my prayers are even being heard? What if nothing ever changes? What then? And now my heart is beating faster, and my prayers are getting too specific, full of my plans and my priorities and how can it not be His will to do what I am asking? I am asking good things with sincere intentions. Thy will be done, I say in a tone that is quickly turning into a tear-filled beg, “Thy will be done – on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
And He turns my eyes back to the pages of my Bible and reminds me how His will is done here on earth. It is Abraham hearing a promise and waiting twenty-five years to see it fulfilled. It is Joseph having a dream of greatness only to find himself dropped in a pit and sold into slavery and thrown into prison, all, somehow, on the way to that dream being realized. It is Habakkuk, asking God for Justice only to learn that God’s ways look nothing like what he imagined and will cost him everything. “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vine… Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Even if I lose everything. Every. Thing. These were not just words for Habakkuk. It was his future and he knew it. And yes God promised that He would make things right but that day most likely did not come while Habakkuk lived on earth. That is a kind of Slow I cannot wrap my head around.
“All these died in faith [guided and sustained by it], without receiving the [tangible fulfillment of God’s] promises, only having seen (anticipated) them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”(Hebrews 11:13 amplified)
I don’t belong here. Some days the not-belonging is so strong I can hardly breathe the air in this place. But even that is a gift. A reminder. If I never see my prayers fully answered here, on this shore, all is not lost. And in the waiting, there will be moments of joy. Laughter comes in the midst of tears. Sun and rain mix together, and a prism of color stops the world in its tracks for a moment, awe overtaking our mindless rushing. His all-surpassing peace comes in the here and now, sometimes in the candle-scented moments, and sometimes in the middle of a storm so loud the candle blows out and the thunder shakes my house. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness,” Peter assures us, “… He is patient… not wanting anyone to perish.” God is active. He has a plan. Those relationships that feel so impossible and hopeless? He hasn’t given up on any of them. The darkness is as light to Him. There is purpose in the Slow. I blink back the tears and hold on to the Truth that feels so contrary to what my eyes can see. I accept the invitation to breathe deep and wait for my heart to quiet its rhythm. And I pray. I believe Lord. Help my unbelief.