I finished Rhett Smith’s excellent book The Anxious Christian this weekend. I picked it up for Amy (because it was written by her college pastor at Bel Air Press, not because of anxiety!). One of the best chapters in the book is called “Welcoming Uncertainty” and in it Rhett talks about one of my favorite personal topics (or rants): God works through stages, through a process.
He uses the story of Israel in the wilderness to make this point (From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, Ex 17:1 NRSV). I usually like to use the Abraham story, but it’s the same idea:
We are constantly moving from one big transition to another. At moments we may experience a respite from the journey, but that doesn’t alter the fact that life is rooted in the wilderness experience of continuous transition and choice.
Transitions are scary and difficult, but this is often the exact place we need to be for God do his work in us. It is, as Rhett says, “that place where we are shaped and transformed.”
I’m reminded over and over again that transitions don’t disappear just because you are done with school, or settled into a job, or because you got married. They just keep coming!
Today I discovered that we now have this in our house:
Tiny overalls and other clothing items for a really small person are accumulating in our loft. A reminder that we are facing a big transition. Which raises all kids of questions: Will the baby be healthy…are we ready for this…will we be good parents?
We just want to fast forward to the end and know everything is going to be fine (or if it isn’t then at least we can brace ourselves for the impact).
But God works in a process…in stages. We are in a hurry, God is not. “The greatest temptation of our time,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, “is impatience.”
No shortcuts, no one step answers to a happy and fulfilled life. The Israelites “left and camped” 41 times in the Exodus story. This is not the last transition for us. Not by a long shot.
It is exactly in those in-between spaces of time…that God shapes us into the people He wants us to become. It is in these times that we should strive to learn what He is trying to teach us.