When You give to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand they are filled with good things.Psalm 104:28
I am sitting in the cozy corner of a local coffee shop, customers are coming in for their morning brew, standing while they wait for the barista to hand them their steaming cup. Soon they are out the door cup in hand, keys in the other. Going somewhere. Their stop on the way to somewhere took all of 5 minutes. The fast pace of our culture often leaves me dizzy.
By contrast, my life in Haiti is slow. The mornings drag into noon often with little accomplished. Sometimes by afternoon I can mark a box off my to do list, sometimes I can’t. Everything takes so long to happen that expectations and schedules are more a cause of frustration than a help. Haiti forces me to slow down.
Yet, I love the pace of my life there. It was a grueling acceptance at first. Watching the slowness that a task was getting completed, I admit, led to much inward struggle. Arguments about effectiveness and productivity were frequent while I was dating a man who was often paces behind “my schedule”.
Looking back, to the start of our ministry there was so much I wanted to accomplish. I had a to-do list of everything we were supposed to “make happen”.
As a result, I started to really see the people we were serving and build trusting relationships with our volunteers.
“God doesn’t give ugly gifts”… Nelson chided me, in response to my joking comment that maybe God will give us a vehicle that is more ugly than the brand new shiny all terrain vehicles that often catch his mechanic’s eye. My husband has this long held wish for a beautiful Jeep to drive over the rough Haitian streets and pitted dirt roads we often take to our sponsor children’s houses.
Ever since we started the ministry we’ve borrowed a countless number of vehicles from friends. We’ve had flat tires far from mechanic shops, driven in temperatures over 100f windows up with no working A/C, stalled miles from a gas station, overheated, had a truck back in to us, got ticketed for someone’s expired papers, and a host of other adventures (aka, problems) in borrowed vehicles.
Thus our desire for a working vehicle is out of a growing necessity. Something reliable, that is all I desire! That is all I dare to hope for, if that.
Who Do You Say That I Am?
On another day I might have brushed past my husband’s chiding comment as part of a silly conversation. But that day it brought conviction to my soul. It wasn’t about a Jeep, or a car, or anything material. God was speaking to me, “who do you say that I am?”.
When a similar conversation was had in the Bible it was about food rather than vehicles but it wasn’t really about food. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake?” Matthew 7:9-10 Jesus wasn’t questioning that week’s grocery menu He was laying on His listeners hearts the same question he laid on mine. “Who am I to you?”
If you then, you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?!Matthew 7:11
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.Psalm 84:11
Is Jesus the giver of good things? Is He perfectly good? Does He truly withhold no good thing from us? If all those statements are true, how could I believe that the giver of good things, the Lord of my life, my maker, my good good father, would give me an ugly gift?
A Second Touch
Sometimes I struggle to believe He is good. I do know it, but I have experienced so much that isn’t good in this world. If there is so much that is not good in this broken world, how can God be only good, you ask? Well, because He is not like us.
I was reading in Mark 8 with all this on my mind. Straining to see the goodness of God in current circumstances. In my prayer journal I put “giver of good things” as the attribute of God that I wanted to lean into this month. The fact that “He withholds no good thing from us”.
There is this story where Jesus comes across a blind man in Bethsaida. Normally my mind would breeze past the details and get to the part where Jesus heals the man he sees, and goes
away whole. Restored. Grateful. That’s great Jesus, you did it again, you showed up and answered the prayer for healing. But what about me?
Now hold on because that is not all we learn from this story. Something struck me that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s amazing how different details pop out of a page to speak into the current struggle of our souls or situation.
Most often Jesus’ healing seems to be instantaneous. I think of the woman with the issue of blood. Just one quick touch of the corner of Jesus’ hem. No words, no second ‘try’, twelve years of suffering and pain gone in an instant.
But here is this blind man. Brought to Jesus by others. He begged Jesus to touch him, and He did. But after touching him He said “what do you see?”. The man responded that he could make out shapes around him but he couldn’t tell if they were trees or people. His vision was still quite blurry. Jesus touched him a second time and his sight was restored.
Maybe there were only a few seconds between the first and second touch but the fact that Jesus didn’t heal him completely on the first touch I think is something for us to learn from. Jesus does heal. He does give us good things. He does satisfy our longing souls.
What an interesting invention the microwave. I once laughed aloud when a friend of Nelson’s asked him in front of me if a microwave “really existed” and if it could really cook food in a matter of minutes! Though he’s never seen one himself, my darling husband informed the amazed listener that it was no joke most Americans have a microwave in their kitchen!
In our hurry culture everything needs to be quick. If the traffic light is taking too long a frustrated sigh escapes “oh come on”, when the barista makes the coffee wrong and you have to wait for a replacement cup, an impatient foot stamping starts. We don’t want to take the time that healing requires. In our relationships we want differences resolved instantly, we want intimacy in marriage to be perfect without trial and error, and we want to be automatically understood without having to explain ourselves.
Because of our innate pull to get it quick, we think that God does not want to heal us when the first touch leaves us with somewhat blurry vision. We give up before the breakthrough. In time He will complete the work he has begun in us. In time we will see clearly.
The Owner of Cattle?
So I expect if God is good He wouldn’t leave me to endure endless months of suffering. If He wanted to give me a good thing He would have already done so. Or I would at least see Him start.
When I view God through the lens of my hurried culture I cannot fathom how His goodness towards me could mean prolonged seasons of longing. In my mind God is too small. He’s too slow. He may own the cattle on a thousand hills… but it’s not a cow that I need anyway.
Another realization I could credit to living in Haiti is that fast isn’t always best. Speed doesn’t equal goodness. Goat meat is very tough; it takes hours of purposeful preparation to get tender. Marinating, boiling, stir frying, re-boiling. It could be edible after a much shorter time, but when the meat is slowly prepared as described above in a tin pot over a wooden fire how much more pleasant tasting it is. The best meat out there in my opinion!
Oftentimes we pick a fight with God because his pace is different from ours. We’re in a hurry, He isn’t. It’s simple.
Everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds.John Newton
Everything that is needed for life and godliness He provides. He sustains us. Sometimes this could mean a Jeep other times a beat up Escape from down the road. It could mean trials or sufferings that are needed for growth or preparation. It could mean a cow! Moo! 🐄 Always grace and comfort.
It also means that if something doesn’t come that I’ve been asking for or seeking it’s not needed at this time. That is hard to swallow. Especially when the gift I am seeking is something natural, something that is a given for most of the people around me yet seems to be withheld from me.
But His thoughts are not our thoughts. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” No. The whole earth bends and sways at His command. My problems, my desires, my concerns are in His hands. He created the cattle on a thousand hills, not only that but He also created husbands for the single, children for the childless, homes for the homeless, vehicles for the vehicle-less (ok so he gave someone the knowledge to make them!) doors for those who are stuck to walk through, food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, peace for the anxious, and He delights to provide.
If you walk outside right now, you could smile at the snow covered trees and breathe deeply the crisp air amid natural glory. Or you could stamp your foot at the car that won’t start and curse the wind that sends a chill down the back of your neck.
Regardless of how you feel about the winter or the snow it will come each year. Whether you hate the months of waiting for the spring it will still be those dormant winter days that bring the flowers to life under the ground. If you know how to wait on God’s promises well with a smile and bounce in your step, or don’t, He will still walk the same pace to bring them about.
Our culture has set us up for failure in this regard. To be born in America is to know about deadlines and alarm clocks. (Side note: amazingly most Haitians, though they have cell phones, have never set an alarm in their lives) We are so quick to define goodness from this ingrained American mindset of hurry.
It’s up to you and it’s up to me to take off this jaded cultural lense and view God not as a good American but as a good good Father beyond our wildest imagination who knows our thoughts and dreams and is providing in His perfect timing, everything we need!
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!Psalm 27:13-14
Other resources that I’d recommend on the topic of our hurry culture and God’s timing: