Learning from the process called ‘life’

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

“It will take four days to fix your wagon,” said the livery man to the customer who brought his buckboard in for repairs.

“Four days! It only took one day to build it.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s what’s wrong with it!”

We want it NOW! No, that’s not soon enough! We want it yesterday!

We are urgent people. Fast food fanatics. Freeway speeders. Newsbreak information gatherers. Condensed book readers.

Someone once said, “I know God is not an American, or he would have rolled up his sleeves and finished the job a long time ago.”

In his novel “Jayber Crow”, the Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry has his character Jayber talk about the quiet work of God’s guidance in our lives: “Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my faintest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led — make of that what you will.”

Do you realize that God is not in a hurry? I know that doesn’t sound like very good news to some, but it’s the truth!

GOD IS NOT IN A HURRY. God’s working is never a panic. It is a sometimes very quiet process. And we may be simply “ignorant pilgrims, crossing a dark valley.”

In the Word of God, there are two pictures of an individual’s relationship with God which are used repeatedly, and which both demonstrate this very idea.

The Bible describes the Christian life, first of all, as a WALK. It’s almost like a Christian two-step – you know…. Put off the old… put on the new… put off the old… put on the new… It is not a sprint, or even a short dash, but more like an uphill climb. A tough, sometimes scenic journey usually stretching out to be something like a 70- or 80-year up-one-hill-and-down-another back pack trek.

The Bible also talks about the Christian’s life as being a FIELD. You know, the planting, and watering, and hoeing and growing kind. But not our field – it’s God’s field.

But all that work is never fast, it’s not quick, and it is not instantaneous. A little child may dig up a seed from the ground every day to see if it’s growing, but mature people know that maturity takes time, right?

The point is: WE ARE PEOPLE IN PROCESS. GOD IS OUT TO GROW US. And with process, there are two realities that are always present in order for growth to occur: (1) time; and (2) pain.

Everything that is alive takes time to grow and inevitably involves pain… whether it’s a tree we’re talking about, or a child, or your emotional and spiritual life.

No one was more driven, more enthusiastic about his new-found faith, and more energetic about the Lord than that bright young brand-new convert of the first century named Paul. And there is evidence in the book of Acts which would lead us to the conclusion that this new believer thought he was God’s gift to the Jews and all he had to do was to be let loose on them.

Apparently that’s what happened. And what was the result?

Acts 9:28-30 tells us the story – that the Jews tried to kill him! And the Christians there took him out and sent him away to Tarsus.

And we don’t hear of Paul until years later … perhaps as many as 10 years.

Do you get it? Newly converted. Wired. Hyped. Motivated. Paul is going to get it done NOW!

But it cannot be like that. He caused such a disturbance that his fellow believers hustle him out of town and give him a one-way ticket home – to Tarsus. He spends at least a couple of years in the Arabian desert. Learning. Re-learning. Slowly growing for several years.

In 1867, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel invented a new high explosive, which he named “dynamite.” He was convinced that his invention would make war too horrible to ever happen again.

However, he quickly discovered there was no shortage of buyers for his new explosive. He made a huge fortune from its sales, yet was horrified with the suffering and misery it caused in wars and conflicts. But what was he to do?

Towards the end of the 19th century, he awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local paper.

Under the headline “The Merchant of Death is Dead”, he read: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before. He died a very rich man.”

Actually, it was Alfred’s older brother who had died. A newspaper reporter had confused the epitaph.

But the account had a profound effect on Alfred. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing a means to kill people efficiently, and for amassing a fortune in the process. As a result, he initiated the Nobel Prize—an award for scientists and writers who foster peace.

Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.” Nobel learned a valuable lesson about life, and did something to correct it!

But the Apostle Paul had also learned an even more valuable lesson about his own life – and ours. He learned that God’s work was a PROCESS – that life, being God’s work, is a continuous walk and an ongoing growing development. Want a little more evidence? A few years later, he wrote these words: “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:10).

Paul learned his lesson … Will you?

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.


Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist