Talking with a retired friend the other day, I was surprised when he confided in me that he found it extremely difficult to adjust the pace of his mind from making numerous, important daily decisions to the reality that nobody really needing anything from him anymore. He had been programmed for decades to be part of a process wherein very important choices had to be made, and there was always a stopwatch ticking down to the deadlines of his decisions. In those years of executive leadership he had trained his mind to move swiftly, aptly and decisively, and as a result of being capable at pressurized decisions, he had an incredible track record of success. God used this man to be incredibly decisive in his career and so much good came from that ability that he enjoyed a very comfortable retirement as a result. Yet now that he was retired, he recognized that he had become inept in the skill of waiting for answers to come to him in a posture of patience and receptivity before God. He had to relearn in this new season of life that there was no longer a stopwatch ticking, and that his constant sense of urgency was not a reality for him anymore. The feelings were rooted in something he felt was real but, objectively, it was all imaginary now. There was no longer a hurry, and he was struggling with knowing how to now live his life in a lower gear. In short, he told me that he felt like he had been driving for forty years on the German Autobahn, and then pulled off the exit ramp to drive out the rest of his years on lazy, meandering back-country roads. He was very transparent as he admitted he had no idea how to live and think outside of pressure and urgency.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5
I’ve never regretted taking my time with something. It seems that every day, as we make decisions, we have an opportunity to either think diligently or react hastily. The above proverb teaches us that one type of decision blesses us while the other troubles us. I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but I think most of us affirm that it would be more beneficial to be blessed than to be troubled. One may be known as a great decision maker, but that doesn’t necessarily make one wise. It is not the ability to decide that makes us plentiful, but rather the ability to decide diligently – seeking with patience, waiting on Providence, and acting in prudence. Some of us are at our best under pressure. We make good decisions when the heat is turned up, and somewhat lose ourselves during prolonged periods of ease or an absence of pressure. Decisive people sometimes exempt themselves from the call to slowly consider and wait upon the Lord for permission. We have a finely crafted set of life philosophies, standards, processes and convictions, so we are masters at operating within those parameters, having trained ourselves to make quick decisions according to the prescribed platform for living. Sometimes we are so presumptuous that we believe God would never lead us to need to wait on Him for something that doesn’t quite fit within our pre-fab parameters – I mean if it doesn’t fit with what I decided was good in the past, why consider it again in the present? Who needs diligence when we have a proven formula, right? It is at these times that we are prone to be hasty, presumptuous, self-willed and overconfident in our own ability to make things happen or to clean things up.
And it almost always costs us something when we live in this frame of mind.
I used to be more confident. I used to think that I had a pretty good grip on most everything. Ask me a question, I’m sure I have the answer. Bring up a subject and I’ll see what is in the vault of knowledge and retrieve a nugget suitable for the topic at hand. Need some Scripture? I know plenty, take a seat and let me share with you how things are. The amazing part was that, when I thought like that, I didn’t know that pride and presumption flavored much of what was guiding me. Years have passed and God has graciously allowed me to be stumped by life a time or two… or five dozen. He hass brought me deeply entrenched within some confusing, messy situations that could not be made to fit into my mold of how I thought “things ought to be”. He has unapologetically challenged my thinking and proven me wrong more than once. During this process He initiated, I began to grow less willing to speak on topics that He had not clearly defined in His word. I was more hesitant to speak on behalf of God in areas where God did not speak for Himself. We honor His word much easier than we honor His silence. What I mean by that is that we intrude into things which have been intentionally left silent by God, and we presume to fill in the blanks for Him instead of waiting on Him to do so for Himself. We want clear guidelines, hard and fast rules, and non-flex rails to keep us from fearing the ledge. Interestingly, most people live at the bottom of the ledge where they have been since their crash, and these are exactly the people who need us. No doubt that God has put up some guardrails and barriers, but not near as many as we might presume. Religion teaches us to dread the possibility of any misstep, while true commitment to Jesus moves us away from the fear of breaking the rules and into the adventure of just remaining close to Him. And when He is silent on the adventure, we should revere that silence as much as we revere His word.
I enjoy the freedom to let some issues in life fall into the category of “unknowable”. There is a certain component to worship that just lives contentedly in the space wherein God chooses to be silent. We do not have to scramble to provide definition to that which God only lightly sketches an outline. If you so please, you can go ahead and feel free to live under the extreme tedium of having to make every issue black and white – I’ve long since resigned from that tiring endeavor. Slow down and wait and listen – we might even learn something new and valuable from both God and others. Hasty control of people and circumstances – God can’t bless it. Patient waiting for the right word at the right moment in the right spirit – He will bless it every time. Diligence or haste? Make your choice…and be prepared to live with the results.
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