When I first met the LORD, it seemed as if I had been plucked up by the roots and planted in some strange land. Every facet of my life seemed different and new. Of course, my entire existence up to that point had been one unending change in scenery. I had hitchhiked across America more times than I could remember, been kicked out of three high schools, lived in one friend’s apartment after another and unsuccessfully attended four different colleges. Even reality changed daily. After too many acid trips, I had been hallucinating nonstop for six years. The sky didn’t even stay constant, strobing on and off as the ceilings and walls swirled around me.
However, this was different. It seemed as if I were embarking on a journey that would actually have a destination, that my future was being crafted and formed by the hands of God, right in front of my eyes. For the first time I wasn’t drifting and I wasn’t in control. I didn’t want to be in control. I knew I had absolutely no idea how to even be human. The farthest thing from my mind was wanting to do my own thing.
I would go to church three times a week, gaining enough focus and stability to make it to the next service. Although it was a chaotic time, it was also a season of possibilities, with opportunities to embrace God’s life bursting around me each and every day. There were many times I didn’t think I could make it to the next church service. I would leave work and head to my pastor’s home, lay down on his front lawn, under a large maple tree, and wait for Pastor Mullins’ return.
One day, my pastor was opening his front door and mentioned he had planted that same large maple tree when it was a mere sprig. I immediately stopped. I was dumbfounded. I looked back at the tree. It was huge, towering over his house, billowing with green leaves beyond number. It seemed to me it had been there forever.
“You’re kidding!” Was all I could say.
It seemed impossible. I had never stayed anywhere long enough to see anything mature and become established. Everything in my life was short-lived. Every relationship was broken. Every plan I ever had lay abandoned. Nothing in my life spoke of permanency, direction or purpose. My heart turned to God.
“Will I ever be anywhere long enough to see something like a tree grow?” I asked Him. “Will anything ever be complete in my life? Will I ever be stable? Will I ever have anything but bits and pieces of life?”
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The LORD knew us and chose us from before the creation of the world. He carries us in His arms from the womb to our old age. Yahweh foresaw the people of Israel, and the nations of believing Gentiles, when He first spoke to Abraham. As the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, that same Spirit knew His home lay in the depths of our hearts. His Word is sure and His plans are without shadow of turning. Humans pray and hope they are heard. Heard today, tomorrow or next week; or maybe next month or next year. We cannot imagine the fulness of God’s answers over time. Jacob never knew what God had begun through him and the saints of the Tanakh died without seeing the promise fulfilled of Emmanuel living in their hearts.
This is because life is made manifest in tiny increments. Each day the subtlest changes take place. And while God can do more in a microsecond than man can do in a millennia, He is a God of patience. His way is certain and those who believe in Him will not make haste. They will wait upon Him.
Over the years, my life continued to change and grow. The LORD gave me a wife and children. He led me to a career and allowed me to become successful beyond my wildest dreams. He gave me a heart to care for others and he showed me how to slow my life down to walk only as fast as the slowest one beside me. Over decades, I have spent my life with the Living God of Israel, His Spirit within me and His people around me. I bought a farm and raised a family. Many years ago I planted trees on my farmland.
Sometimes I sit on my porch and look out over my property. It is filled with thousands of trees, many towering far above my home. Every single one of them planted as a slender sprig. It is then that I marvel over the gentleness, faithfulness and mercy of God. It is then that I see how he has held my hand from the first moment I met Him, slowing down to walk beside me as I groped along. I know the good work He has begun, He will bring to pass; our journey stretches far into eternity, and the things He has planted in my heart will continue to grow and become, in time, full of the glory of God, made fresh in the image of Messiah.