Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

As Long As It Takes

I had every intention of going to church tonight after I left work and visited with my family for a couple of hours. I told myself that I needed it. After losing my grandmother on Sunday and spending the entire day yesterday in a quiet, darkened room by myself, I needed a quick reboot from the Lord today. I needed something from a preacher, not just my own Bible study.

Then, I waffled for a bit. I was tired, and being back at work after a day off was not easy. There was much more catching up to do than I anticipated, and even though I was still grieving, having to put on a brave face and go about the work like everything was fine was tough. I had an excuse, and exercising it would have been perfectly understandable. Only it wasn’t, and just as soon as I said, “I’m not going to go,” the Holy Spirit said, “Yes, you are.” So I submitted, telling myself to get moving because I still had enough time to make it there on time, if not a few minutes early.

Then, I hit the expressway. Almost as soon as I got there, I realized that there was a back up. By the time I turned on news radio and learned that all lanes were closed down due to police activity, I was completely blocked in with nothing to do but wait. I started to question whether I heard the Spirit wrong. I wondered if this was Satan throwing a monkey wrench or if I was supposed to be learning something from this traffic jam. I considered if I should have just gone home after all.

When I finally made it to church, the sermon was over, and I had arrived just in time for the offering. I was a little ticked off, partly because I did not hear what I needed to hear and partly because I was giving an offering for something someone else heard. And even though I said to myself, “At least I can hear the final prayer,” I found my mind wandering, and then even the prayer was over. I cannot recall anything about it other than the obligatory “Amen” conclusion.

Now, sitting on my couch, feeling completely unfulfilled and wondering how to gain some peace after all that has transpired, I decided to read a few Christian blogs and go back to my devotional journal from this morning, searching for meaning or a lesson or just plain anything to justify this letdown of an evening. “What were you even looking for?” I asked myself as I flipped through various musings.

Instant gratification–yep, that’s it. I wanted to go to church to find some peace of mind, emotional stability, and a feel good medicine. I wanted to walk away feeling transformed and renewed, but it just didn’t happen. Here I am sitting literally in the same place I was all yesterday feeling like nothing I have tried to do for myself in Christ today is working out.

But then I reread the closing sentences from my morning journal entry: “Keep me coming back to your word, Lord, for there is truth and love there. Let me never tire of coming to you and your word.” And I realize that my patience is too thin. I recognize that my prayers, once again, have been answered in the most lovingly humorous way that only God can answer them. If it was always easy, there would be no need for me to keep running back to Him. There would be no need to have faith.

“How long,” I question, “will I have to submit before this becomes second nature? How long will I have to practice this kind of devoted living before I am transformed? How long will I try and fail and try and fail some more before I figure this thing called Christian living out?”

As long as it takes, He replies.

And isn’t that exactly what faith is, Friend? Leaning on Him no matter what, having no clue about the timetable or even the temporal outcome, knowing that the real reward is salvation, isn’t that what faith is? Isn’t it patiently grinding it out in the name of Jesus and being obedient regardless of what we see ahead for as long as it takes? Isn’t it waiting on the Lord for a breakthrough, never ceasing to pray and study and apply His word? Isn’t it?

It’s hard, so hard, to be patient, especially in our fast-paced society where self-checkouts and 1-click buys and instantaneous front door delivery services make 20 years ago seem like the stone ages. But patience is a virtue and a demonstration of faith.

What if Moses would have been impatient in the desert? What if David would have been impatient after he first learned he would be king? What if Jesus would have been impatient with me?

As long as it takes, Lord, is my prayer. Let me do your will faithfully, diligently, and patiently no matter what and for as long as it takes to worship you for eternity in glory!

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