Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

A lesson from a floating dock

You might have thought that after thirty-some years I’d have got that God doesn’t always do things the way I think He should. But I’m a slow learner: one of the reasons He made eternity so long is that I will spend the first third of forever in remedial class, catching up on all the stuff I missed.

One of the problems is that I tend to make assumptions and then sulk a bit when they don’t pan out. A case in point: about eighteen months ago my wife and I clearly felt God tell us to take some pretty significant steps because He had something new in store.

We took a deep breath, stepped out and… waited. I’d expected the new thing to come along the next week. Then, when it didn’t, the next month. Then the next quarter. Then the next year.

And we’re still waiting.

We’ve had our moments of doubt, but we are still fundamentally sure He told us to step out. The waiting, though, has been frustrating, scary, and confusing. One day when I was prambling—that’s praying and grumbling at the same time—I asked God what I was supposed to be learning during this extended waiting time. I wasn’t getting whatever the lesson was supposed to be, so maybe He could give me a hint, and we could just move on? Even multiple choice would be good.

The one-word answer surprised me. Obedience.

It didn’t make much sense at first, but became clearer as I thought back. That stepping out had a back-story: God had actually told us to six months before we did, and at that time I’d managed to rationalize the prompting away, despite my wife’s best efforts to cheer me on to bravery, because it seemed reckless.

When in my prambling I was reminded that I had initially been disobedient, it didn’t seem harsh. It just made sense: God had wanted me to do something at a certain time, and I’d demurred. Maybe if I’d stepped out then, everything would have just fallen into place seamlessly.

He had graciously given me another opportunity to respond, but why did I presume that just because I’d finally gotten it together that the Lord of the Universe should then orchestrate things just to suit me? “Oh, you’re ready now? Great, let me get onto re-arranging everything for you right away!” Maybe the waiting is a consequence of my tardiness.

What came to mind as I pondered it all was the captain of a boat calling someone to come on board from a floating deck, as his vessel comes alongside. The skipper knows when the deck and the dock are best aligned to make that step possible. If the person on the dock shrinks back, he or she will just have to wait until the drifting tide, the bobbing waves, and the shifting surfaces are in sync again. That’s not punishment. It’s just the way the world works.

Of course, even if I had stepped out at the first nudge, I could still be waiting. But that would be an advanced class. I’m still in 101.


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