Desert Lands and Ivy Roots

“What day is it?” I have heard (and asked) that question repeatedly over the last few weeks. Without normal routines and pat schedules, this season of disruption warps our perception of time. Days blend into other days, and weeks pass without a predictable ebb and flow.

We look at the cancelled events and passing days on the calendar and wonder, “How long?” When time seems to stretch out and creep along at a snail’s pace, we can grow frustrated at our perceived lack of forward movement. But there may be deep work in progress where there is otherwise a lack of obvious activity.

An old wall surrounded part of a university campus in England. For many years, the groundskeeper tried in vain to coax ivy to cover the wall. Seeing very little growth for decades, he decided to allow one more year before uprooting and replacing the plant. During that span of time, the ivy grew at an amazing rate. Lush, green leaves soon spread across the formally-bare face of the wall. Out of curiosity, the gardener investigated and found that the plant’s roots had grown underground to meet the waters of a local river some 70 feet away. Decades of apparent inactivity were preparation for explosive change.

We find this pattern repeated throughout the Bible. Joseph spent 13 years as a servant and prisoner before rising to power. David waited 15 years to become king. Moses was a shepherd in Midian for 40 years before God called him to deliver Israel from Egypt.

Of all the times of preparation recorded in the Bible, one always stands out to me. Found in one verse, Galatians 1:17, the apostle Paul wrote that, upon following Jesus, he spent time away from all the other religious leaders of the day: “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” Ancient writers labeled an area east of Jerusalem, in the desert regions and cities beyond the Jordan River, as Arabia. 

In today’s culture, we would rush to put Paul onstage to leverage the momentum of his dramatic conversion. Many people would implore, “Don’t wait too long Paul! Use this excitement to sell more books, get invited to more churches and create a platform for your message.” But Paul stepped away from the new cultural center of Christianity for three years as God prepared him to become the greatest missionary in history. We have no details, no letters and no sermons from that time in Paul’s life. There is one thing we do know: the man who emerged from Arabia was not the same man who entered. 

Maybe you feel forgotten. It could seem that you are are standing still. Or perhaps it looks like, though you are living faithfully, God is moving you farther away from what you believe he has called you to do. 

For an arrow to move forward, it must be drawn backwards. God may prepare your future launch through your present setback. He’s not counting you out; he’s just winding you up.

God is preparing his heroes; and when opportunity comes,
he can fit them into their place in a moment,
and the world will wonder where they came from.
– A.B. Simpson

Pray that…

We will not attempt to “rush” God, but will wait on his perfect timing. – Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

We will be faithful to God’s commands and live by faith, knowing that he grows his kingdom by his power. – Mark 4:26-29 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 

We will eagerly and expectantly await for God to work in us and for us. – Psalm 130:6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

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