So... Did it really take God just 7 days to create the universe? Or was it more like 7 billion years? (Or "7 ages", as some theologians infer, in an attempt to reconcile "science" and "religion"...)
But then, really... what is a DAY to God? Diving deeper into that rabbit hole... what is one of God's "days" to us?
Do they have watches in Heaven? What about calendars? How do we measure "eternity"? When does (or did, rather) eternity start? How old is God? Does God the Father have a birthday party once a year? Oh wait... how long is a year in heaven?
The whole conversation concerning the perceived details of "God's timing" is rhetorical, really. Bottom line is, it is foolish to expect that God is bound to our 24-hour "day", and it is equally foolish to suggest that God NEEDS 7 billion years to do anything or everything He so desires. God is simply not bound by time. He is. He was. He will always be. Time is actually man's own invention-- a figment of our own imagination, God-breathed as our imaginations are. God's days are not numbered. Ours are. That's why our forefathers started measuring the speed at which the sun creeps across the sky, thousands of years ago. Time is man's own construct by which we measure our own days-- as if we have any control whatsoever as to the quantity or length of those days. But the God we serve, (whether or not we acknowledge Him or love Him, we do indeed serve Him-- every one of us), is not bound by our watches. He is not a slave to our calendars. He moves as He wishes. When He wants. For as long as He desires. It's all the same to Him.
I was just talking to a friend who has recently had some employment problems. And then of course, some resulting financial problems. And then some of the seemingly un-related "standard" child-rearing challenges mixed with some child health challenges. Was it perfect timing, or horrible timing? I mean... When the bathtub happened to explode into an uncontainable gusher, just as they were dropping one of their children into a cool bath, in the aforementioned tub, in an attempt to control a raging fever? Now, all homeowners have experienced some sort of plumbing crisis, to be sure. But, on top of all the other stuff this particular family has been facing...?? I mean, c'mon God... NOW??!! At such a time as THIS??!!
Well, my friend-- an intense task-master, and an expert at just about everything-- put his new found "free time" (a nice little ancillary benefit of being unemployed) to use. He shut off the water main into his house and went about fixing the problem. To hear him tell the story is truly priceless. He worked, drilled, wrenched, cut, sweated, and plumbed his knuckles to the bone for 5 or more days, trying to fix the problem as quickly as possible-- certainly I'd have done the same. ("It was like camping out. Only we were home," recounts his wife, referring to their lack of running water that week.) But as it turns out, the problem just wasn't going to be fixed until the right parts and tools arrived... And those tools and parts wouldn't arrive until 5 days after the gusher first gushed. And all the working, drilling, wrenching, cutting, sweating, and plumbing in the world wasn't going to make the parts arrive any faster. Bottom line, his expectation of the time it SHOULD take to fix the tub and have running water in his house again was something COMPLETELY different than what was actually even possible. The truly awesome part the story is that my friend, being a broken and God-seeking man (2 prerequisites for being the kind of person who tends to have a true and good impact the world), in hindsight, now sees the whole ordeal as God's way of saying, "Now... Enough of this plumbing thing... Let's talk about your job. Your family. Your life. Who's timeline are you on? Mine or yours? What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Your work or mine? You want to keep doing things your way, or are you ready to follow Me where I lead you?"
A bible verse bubbles up from my heart and settles on my mind... "Cease striving and know that I am God..."
I have another friend-- a full-time mother of 3 kids. Just turned 40. Her youngest is starting pre-school this fall, her older two in elementary school... JUST when it looks as though she might actually start to get some time to her "self" during the weekdays, ("Finally, some 'ME' time!" she says), she and her husband are faced with a tough set of circumstances, a solution to which may include home-schooling this coming year. They have been broken and seeking God (there it is, again), as to what to do with their kids' schooling situation... Which seemed at this moment to be an answer to their previous prayers as to whether or not they should adopt another child... "Time is running out... we need to make a decision on this..." God has a funny way, though, (as I mentioned in my opening "rhetoric"), of transcending time. 40-year-olds are not supposed to get pregnant. Especially when dealing with all this other "stuff". Timing is everything, right? Or rather, to God, timing is nothing at all. As my friend describes, this new "surprise" pregnancy is nothing short of a miraculous and timely answer to prayer. Several prayers, actually... So much for adoption, for now. So much for "me" time this fall-- and what to do with the "me" time. On with life. On with following wherever He leads. On with time.
Ask a cancer survivor how long it takes to "beat it". They'll answer, "the rest of my life". How long does it take to beat you? Hmmm... Same answer.
"How much time do I have, Doc?"
"Same as everyone else," answers the Great Physician. "The rest of your life."
You see, God's not as concerned with the quantity of our days. He's more into "quality of life" therapy. I guess you could call Him a "process guy".
It only took 10 months for God to lead me from living "the dream"-- happily and healthily married, a little boy, a dog, a house in the suburbs with the privacy fence, a good job, a good church-- to being a widowed single father. Four months later, upon returning home from vacation (or rather, a holiday "escape") to a severely flooded house, I laughed (because I couldn't cry-- my eyes had been cried dry the previous 4 months) at "God's timing".
"OF COURSE!!" I looked toward Heaven with my arms outstretched. "My HOUSE! ... NOW! of ALL TIMES!" And so-on... I remembered crying out, "WHAT NEXT?!" and then catching myself... "NO WAIT!!! Don't answer that."
And now, only a little over 10 months after the death of my best friend and wife-- the mother of my child-- I am partnered in love, life, and faith with a new companion. In a "commited relationship." Not at all the timing I'd planned. That's to be sure.
"Is he done grieving his wife?" Some have asked, the questions leaking their way back to me.
I'll never be "over" Leslie. (Which of us who knew the woman will ever be "over" her?!) I'll never be finished dealing with the fact that I lost my wife to cancer. I'll never forget the fact that my son lost his mommy before he was 3 years old. Those thoughts are never going to make me happy. They will always carry a certain amount of weight on my heart-- although that weight will shift and change as time goes on as my perspective changes or "matures". But it will always affect me. I've come a long way emotionally and spiritually over the past year-- I've done a lot of really good "grieving". But am I done? I don't think I'll ever be done grieving, you know? But here's the thing... God saw fit to begin molding a new vessel out of the crumbled mess of me that remained. And in HIS timing, not my own. In HIS fashion, and according to HIS good and perfect will. I couldn't have scripted this. And if I would have been able to, there's no way I'd have ever had the guts to will it into being. Ask Katie. She'll tell you that this is NOTHING that she ever wished or asked for... yet it's somehow EVERYTHING she's ever wanted and what she's been praying for all along. It's just nothing like what she was expecting. At COMPLETELY the perfectly WRONG time in her life. As a friend of mine likes to say, 'He's in the business of making beauty from ashes'."
I hear, (from a concerned friend), of a mega-church out west which has a policy which prohibits them from marrying a person who is a widowed parent of minors until 2 years after the death of their spouse. They have a 2 year "grieving" curriculum that must be completed by a church member in such circumstances before "moving on". It takes 2 years for God to work in a heart until it is capable of loving its way through a God-honoring marriage, apparently.
But it only takes Him 168 hours to create the universe. Actually, less than that. The last 24 hours were rest. Wait... what's that you say? It wasn't really 7 days??? It was more like 7 billion YEARS? How do you know? Were you there? Are you saying that God CAN'T create it all in 142 hours? Are you saying He can't heal a widow in less than 2 years? Or... are you just saying He doesn't? You know... kind of like asserting that we're still living in God's "Day of Rest"... God's off the clock. Not in the business of doing creative work anymore. He's done. See you in the afterlife. But for now, you're on your own. And it takes a mere mortal 2 years to heal himself (or be healed by other mere mortals) from that kind of heartbreak. ("Deism" is what they call that.)
I'm trying to take a lighter look at some pretty heavy stuff, I realize. But I'm just realizing these days how we as "believers" tend to have a hard time believing that God is still in the business of making beauty from ashes. Galaxies from nothingness. Flesh from dust.
And as if that's not enough disrespect to the Almighty, when we do "allow" for the possibility of His activity in our lives, we set the ground rules. The timelines. The parameters. The criteria. We, my friends, have put God in a box. We have taken the Creator, Father, Counselor, Healer, Savior, and Almighty, and we've turned Him into a beautifully harmless, predictable, inanimate object. We have, en masse, broken the 2nd commandment. We have created for ourselves an idol. And we have called it God.
Now, it's a two-way street. Just like the "God has no timeline" thing seems to be working in my favor, in regards to my new relationship and all the joy and happiness He is bringing me in it, so does the same truth strike a gut-wrenching blow into my friend who is still asking, "God, when are you going to lead me to a job? How are you going to provide? When are you going to move?!"
I am not a template. Not a how-to manual in grieving. Not a "standard timeline". God doesn't work in templates. He is creative to the "nth" degree... He is, in fact, Creator. God may take 2 years to put the pieces back together. Just the other week I met a widow who is in her 7th year without her husband, with no idea how I am where I am. "How do you just take that step?" She asks. "You don't." Was my answer. "You abide. And then you move when He sees fit." Just as no 2 people are the same, neither are 2 stories. As similar as circumstances can tend to be on the surface, whether between friends or absolute strangers, the differences are infinite... And so are the possibilities. This, as best I can tell, is as good a "proof" as any of a living, breathing, loving, Creator God. (God doesn't need the proof. But sometimes we do, I guess.)
So... What's your timeline? What's God's? Is He an idol? Or is he GOD?
Thank you, Lord, for moving when You are. How You are. Where You are. I will not drag my feet. I will not push to shorten the timeline. I will simply abide. And I will follow. Be glorified in us-- Your beauty-from-ashes stories. Amen.