On a retreat this weekend, my mind wandered the way it can amidst the sudden freedom of escaping the city: I don’t have any idea what time it is, and it doesn’t even matter. It is “afternoon.” When you’re not so busy, it really seems ludicrous to measure and divide time the way we do in America.
And we’re so proprietary about it. ‘He wasted fifteen minutes of MY time’. Like he stole something from me; like I would’ve cured cancer in that fifteen minutes if I had it back.
We build our lives around this belief in the scarcity of time.
But we’ve never wasted God’s time. Even when we miss our appointments with Her.
Grace is waiting.
This thought sprung out of my half-formed mental wanderings, and now, like some kind of fantastical companion animal, it’s been following me around for two days: grace is waiting.
I am an American and a problem-solver, a strategizer and planner, and I am a graduate student in Boston; all of which means I believe my time is extraordinarily important. I have a mental schedule for work and homework and exercise. I am ashamed to admit it, but I’m often that person in the long drugstore line making huffy noises about employees I suspect could be opening another register. I make calculating decisions about whether I have time for conversations with housemates.
I have no idea how to wait for anything. I can’t “be still” unless I’ve penciled it my planner. I can’t enjoy someone’s story unless I know the point of the story is coming soon. Grocery store lines remind me of my lack of control, and give me nothing but anxiety. Though I could be watching things unfold; taking in the process; reflecting on my day; connecting with another person; or thinking of a favor to do for a friend, instead I’m just stewing in a stew of irritability. And it hardly ever occurs to me to just be, simply a person standing in a line or listening to a story and letting events carry me along for a few minutes.
The real problem here, though, is not just that I need to change some habits and attitudes. The real problem is that, if I have definite ideas for how grocery stores should and should not be run, then obviously I believe that I know best how things should come to pass in churches. We all have our opinions and expectations for where the church is going, where it should be going, how it should get there, how it should not get there, what language should be used to describe it. And a little too often, I think, our perception of ourselves as correct or “forward-thinking” leads us to label our personal hopes and plans as the Movement Of The Holy Spirit, who is going to leave everybody else behind if they don’t Get On Board. Especially if we like to think of ourselves as Revolutionaries, then we expect other people to immediately grasp The Problem and The Solution, to drop everything and embrace our cause, because we are So Obviously Right. If they don’t, they are backwards, ignorant, uncompassionate, or grasping after power or traditions that are already dead, and we dismiss them as enemies.
Of course, most people wouldn’t describe their hopes and work for the future of the church that way, but it seems to seep into so many of our actions. If we are going to avoid this attitude, I think we need to remember – grace is waiting.
How many times in my life have I been unable to see my own sin? How many times have I been able to see it clearly, and still found myself desperately unable to cross the gap between what is and what should be? How many times have I known I was doing wrong, and taken advantage of God’s grace by choosing not to face Him?
Seventy times seven times, God has walked with me through a slow, halting, wandering path of change while I remained willful, dense, pride-filled, self-absorbed, and childish; all the while nudging me gently into a better Way with the whisper: I love you. I am. I am here.
However exegetically correct and culturally astute I may believe myself to be, maybe this is a true test of whether I am Spirit-led – whether I can walk this path with others, without compromising the vision for a better future, but not grasping for control by proclaiming that The Future is Now when, in fact, the future is in the future. The future is unfolding of God’s accord, not being summoned of my will; and people are always learning, not springing forward another evolutionary step by next Wednesday. We are journeying together one step at a time, creating together one stroke at a time, and I believe that even the missteps and clashing colors will one day be resolved by One who sees better than I do.
And for as long as the days and the stories are still turning themselves over like a sunrise, grace will still be waiting.
Lyndsey lives in Boston, MA where she is pursuing her Master's in Theological Studies at Boston University. She enjoys Community, Mad Men and Beauty and the Beast and her spirit animal is a sloth. She would like to know if this is some kind of interactive theater art piece. You can follow her on Twitter @lyndseygraves and you can find more of her writing at her blog To Be Honest.