Lent’s Invitation to “Trust in the Slow Work of God”

trust slow work

Sue Monk Kidd calls it “quickaholic spirituality”—the notion, amplified in and by a culture of instant gratification, that there ought to be some drive-thru or microwave (some kind of abbreviated path or recipe) by which we can arrive at spiritual maturity without all the starts and stops and sputters and frustrations and delays.

It’s among the things we addressed at a recent exploration on spiritual formation “gleanings” from the Life of Jesus at First United Methodist Church in Somerville, Texas.  The disciples, we affirmed (and Paul and the Church portrayed in the Book of Acts): they all evolved and matured over the course of a lifetime in this world.  We ought to expect and accept the same for ourselves.  There are no shortcuts when it comes to growing up in (and into) Christ.

It brings to mind one of my favorite stories or metaphors for seasons of spiritual waiting and preparation—like Lent:

A man (convalescing and confined to bed for some time) passed a few of his days, in part, by watching the progress of a caterpillar unto cocoon on the window frame next to his nightstand.  Finally, the day of emerging came with its drawn out struggle.  Thinking he could help things out (as the creature seemed stuck at a certain point), the man took a pair of scissors and gingerly snipped–  hoping to widen the opening, easing the struggle, facilitating freedom.  So, he thought and hoped.

Sadly, though, the butterfly fell to the sill, swollen and limp — eventually to wither and die there.

The struggle of the emergence, it seems, was and is crucial for precious life juices to make their way into the wings so that they can take full shape—so that the butterfly can take flight!

The messages are clear for me, dear Friends.  We evolve.  There are no short-cuts.  And further: those times of adversity and hardship that we’d love to bypass?  They, too, have their place and meaning and value.

Maybe Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955) put it best when he wrote…

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

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