Ok, I hope we are starting to get the hang of this by now. These are the posts that are really long because they are about Long Term Living. Got the point? Good. Sit back and enjoy some more meanderings or you know, go read twitter, more instant gratification over there.
I’ve been thinking lots about the God who does things over a really long period of time. The God who takes a while to get to the point sometimes (in my small finite brain view). I started to notice this one day whilst reading some of the Bible. Suddenly I wasn’t paying attention to the story anymore but the small, sometimes unseen sentences that linked the stories. I noticed the small details that betrayed the fact that the stories took slightly longer to live than the time taken to read them. I find it all too easy to overlook the time taken for stories to unfold in the Bible. It takes me all of about 5 minutes to read some of them, an hour at best,and yet I’m reading about years and years of peoples lives. Call me slow, but it has taken a while to get my head to deal with this.
Sometimes a whole lifetime is expressed in a story that takes 5 minutes to read. I start to expect my growth in character to be like that. I still want the Matrix download in my head (“I know kung fu” for all you late 90s fans out there). But I continually struggle with jealousy, pride, lack of love, lack of self control and many more things that bore me with their refusal to be jetwashed off the insides of my hard heart. These things don’t go in 5 minutes. It takes a lifetime for God to deal with us.
The Bible is full of unknowns, it explains and takes us through the stories that we need to know about but there is so much left unsaid. I wonder what happened in those times, when our heroes just got on with living? I wonder what they were like then? I wonder if Moses had any inclination of what would happen 40 years after leaving Egypt and whether he thought he’d be back in such a spectacular way some day. I wonder what Jesus got up to in the 30 years before he stepped into the Jordan and got baptised. I wonder how Simeon waited for so long. I wonder what Paul did when he was just making tents.
The Bible is full of these throw away lines that mark the passing of years, giving us some hint that this life thing might be a whole lot more long term than we think. Here are some of the more tastier moments when things take a lot longer than I would expect.
Abraham was 75 years old when God told him he’d bless all nations through him and give him a son. Abraham was 100 when that actually happened (with a previously barren wife…). 25 years to see if the start of the promise happened.
Jacob hung around for 20 years waiting for Laban to let him head off with Rachael.
Joseph waited a whole long time in prison having no idea what would happen next. Even when he did the cupbearer a favour and hoped he’d put in a good word for him with Pharaoh it took 2 years for the cupbearer to remember him again.
The Israelites spent 40 years wandering around a desert doing a 2 week journey. Nuff said.
The Israelites were sent off to exile for 70 years, told to settle down, seek the good of the city, make babies and generally just live. 70 years.
After the events surrounding Malachi and Zechariah there was silence from God for 400 years. Seriously. 400 years. Think what life was like 400 years ago. Oh wait, we have no experience of that, it was 400 years ago.
Jesus didn’t start his public out there preaching and teaching until he was 30.
There is a whole lot of life that isn’t made up of impressive stories of God’s obvious work in this world. There is a whole lot of life to be lived through, silences to trust Him in, years of not knowing and not understanding. In that time we are called to live in community together with other people of God, we are called to live a quiet life, a life that waits well, that treasures and trusts Jesus. There may well be moments of God changing history in a Massive Way. But there may just be the everyday miracles of trusting Him in the dark, holding the hand of a friend, loving someone beyond ourselves. There may be no sign of God doing anything at all.
Thankfully we aren’t left in those times with nothing. With no hope and no light. We’re left with the Psalms. Songs of praise, songs of lament, songs of crying, songs of triumphant joy, songs expressing the life of God’s people trying to live with an infinite God. We are left with songs crying out in the exile asking how we can sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land. We’re left with the permission and encouragement to question, to ask God what He is up to.
So what is the Psalm of your today? What songs will you sing in the space between the stories, as we live in the long space between the coming and coming back of Jesus? What helps us wait with patience, active lives and expectant hearts? How can we be rooted where we are whilst being aware that our home is elsewhere?