The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot bee seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Last week, Rick and I spent the week at our little house at beautiful Lake Junaluska, a favorite gathering spot for United Methodists. On the way up, we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping to take the short hike down into the Linville gorge to look at the falls. The path was dirt and gravel and I did not have on the proper footwear, and I complained all the way down, but even more fervently on the way back up. This is what I knew as we walked down the mountain trail: if one walks down a path, then only way to get back is to walk back up.
Sometimes it seems as if we are down in a deep gorge these days. The COVID19 is not going away. Every time there is a downturn in cases there is soon an uptick. It has touched people we know and love. People wear masks or they do not wear them. People gather inside or they do not. And besides The Virus, for those of us who mostly stay home, turning on the television may distract us from the virus, we are inundated with mean-spirited political ads. We long to gather with friends around the table with laughter and good food, but dare not. We want to go to basketball games and cheer loudly for Duke or NC State (or some other team), but dare not. Fires continue to rage in the west and the Atlantic continues to produce record-breaking numbers of tropical storms. I want to cry with the prophet Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help before you will listen?”
But God’s time is not ours. The Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt for more than 400 years before the Exodus. We are a people who often want what we want and we want it right now! We watch television where every problem can be solved in an hour’s time. I used to dial up (Yes, dial. I am that old) someone on the one telephone in the house. I waited for it to ring, and then waited for an answer. If no one answered, I knew to wait a half-hour or so and try again. Nowadays I get frustrated if my intended recipient does not answer in three rings. I want everything right now. But God has infinite patience with us. Someone very wise once advised me never to pray for patience because that was one prayer God was certain to answer by giving us something to be patient about!
While we were at Junaluska, of Rick’s college friends came to visit from Virginia some. We were able to share a meal on a balcony overlooking the lake. It was such fun! But soon the cold weather will drive most of us inside, where doors and windows are shut and air is recycled again and again. I know that we will want to gather and sing and pray together. Maybe that will happen. Maybe not. My patience will wear thin. I have not seen our son who lives only an hour away for nearly four months, because people at his workplace keep coming down with the virus. Sweet child that he is, he does not want to expose the old folks to it. But the beautiful thing about the church, and the beautiful thing about community is that it remains. When the time is right, God’s grace will bring us together again. God’s own time, not necessarily ours. Until then, we hold one another in our hearts and prayers.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!
A thousand ages in thy sight is like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.
O Lord our God, who created all things and called them good, and who loves every all of us creatures equally, forgive our impatience when things are not going as we wish they would. Help us remember that we live in your time and not our own. Make us always remember that the earth is yours, and everything in it, and that you will be with us through it all. Amen.
Pastor Rachel Moser