Have you ever felt like life was leaving you behind?
We see so many stories of Rebelutionaries seeking after God, doing hard things, and changing the world. It’s amazing to see the work other young people are doing. Writing books. Graduating college early. Starting ministries. Starting businesses. All of those are good and beautiful and amazing, and we applaud and rejoice with each of them. But sometimes, there can be a twinge of hurt mixed in.
Because we look on those things from afar. We’re happy for them, yes, but we’re not there with them. We’re not doing what they are. We’re not in that same place. Everyone seems to be flying past us, and the years are too. Rebelutionaries are teens doing hard things for God–but some of us realize we’re not teens anymore. There’s a frantic whisper in the back of our minds, saying we’re behind our peers, behind our expectations, and behind in life. And that’s hard.
I know. I’m in this curious stage of life where most of my friends are engaged, married, or pregnant. They’re getting professional jobs, graduating from college, or moving across the country. But I’m sitting here. Still the same. Perhaps you can relate, even if you’re in a different age demographic. Everyone else is graduating high school. Everyone else is going on exotic mission trips. Everyone else is going to fancy colleges.
But we’re sitting here, still the same.
And it’s not for lack of trying. We have been and are being faithful right where we are. We’ve been chasing after God. We’ve been following where he’s leading. But somehow, that path seems to have detoured around all the big victories. We haven’t been published. We didn’t get the job. None of our ministry attempts really took off. It seems as if success is racing past us, while we’re mired in the quicksand of the same.
And in this quicksand, it’s so easy to flail about. We worry and stress and wonder if maybe I’m not doing enough, maybe I’ve messed up, maybe I should be doing this or that instead and I have to do more right here and right now and–
It’s ok. It’s ok to take this slowly.
Because God doesn’t require us to have it all figured out right now. There’s no check list of things-you-must-accomplish-by-20-to-be-a-spiritual-Christian. Our lives are not on the same timetable as everyone else’s; we don’t need to stress that we’re not passing the same mile markers they are. It’s ok to take this slowly, one day at a time.
Now, that’s no excuse to take things easy. This isn’t a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card to allow complacency with our growth or progress. Trusting in God and his timing gives no place for laziness. That would be like a farmer who says, “I trust God for the crop,” and yet never puts out seeds. That’s nonsense. We must still till the ground, we must still plant. Yet we must also remember that often we have to wait for the rain. We must remember that little plants take time to grow. We must remember that different plants grow at different rates.
Yes, growth and change are good, imperative even. Stagnation in almost anything means death. It is good for us to long for fruit from our work, it is good for us to wish to serve God powerfully. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, “We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
But we forget that even eggs take time to hatch.
God rarely goes the speed we would like him to. He often takes our lives through many detours we think useless. Just look at David. He spent years sitting on a hill, watching sheep munch grass. Not exactly productive-sounding. He spent hours and days in solitude, with no one to teach him or talk to him. If anyone could claim they were being left behind while everyone else was considered for success, it was him–his father didn’t even bother to call him when Samuel came looking for a king. While his brothers went off to fight in the war–a necessary skill if any for a king– he was left to the company of smelly sheep. Yet that’s exactly where God wanted him.
And David wasn’t the only one. Peter’s days and hands were rough from the fibers of nets and the scales of fish–not exactly normal training for a preacher. The first thirty years of Jesus’ life–which more than anyone else’s could have been filled with the shouts of praise from followers, gasps of surprise by the suddenly-healed, and shuffles of a thousand feet gathered to hear his words–were instead filled with–we don’t know. Most likely the thudding of hammers, scratching of sandpaper, and soft shaving of wood. God likes roundabout ways.
Yes, we want growth now. We want to be perfect now. We want to succeed now. But God doesn’t work like a drive-through. He’s just as interested in how we get to success as in succeeding. Because He’s more interested in who we are than where. And that includes in life’s timetable.
Give yourself grace. You’re not behind in life. You’re not missing deadlines in living. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why do we think Christ-in-you would be? No, His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:23) He takes us day by day.
So take this slowly. We’re not going to understand everything about reality in a day. We’re not going to become super mature Christians in a day. We’re not going to have a successful life or ministry in a day. And that’s ok, as long as we take every day to continue working towards them.
You don’t have to have it all figured out today. Wisdom comes when we seek it–but not all at once. So keep on. A successful life serving Christ comes–but not all at once. So keep on.
Don’t stress if you’re in that quiet still place right now. Seeds lie in the dirt for quite some time. And even when it does rain, it can seem like everything is the same still, but now just muddy. Yet growth comes. And God is faithful to bring the harvest, some 30-,some 50-, and some 100-fold.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
He’s brought you this far. Not in fast-forwards, not in grand jumps, but slowly. Moment by moment. Day by day. Inches turn into feet which turn into miles; minutes turn into hours which turn into years. Sometimes it seems that we’re inching along in our climb, hardly moving. Yet when we look back, we can see we’ve been surmounting the mountain all along. So take this slowly. Life isn’t leaving you behind. Perhaps today you’re simply watching sheep, catching fish, or sanding wood. But that’s ok.
He’s teaching you right where you are.
So let’s take this slowly
All I need
Is coming but it’s just beyond what I can see.
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright.
— The Gray Havens, ‘Take This Slowly’
Previously published on TheRebelution