Faith Takes Time and Other Frustrations
by Mike McKinniss
I’m no farmer. It’s from the sterile displays at Stop & Shop I get my fruits and vegetables. I understand in theory that my tomatoes come from a tiny seed, which shoots up a long twisty vine, which eventually produces tiny green bulbs that expand into larger green fruit, which in time turns red and juicy and delicious. And all of this happens over the course of five or six months, from spring into the late summer and early fall.
I get that in theory. But when I want a tomato for BLT’s, all I do is hop in my car, drive a mile and a half up the street, and grab my fill of plump ‘maters in the produce section of the grocery. I’m back home within 20 minutes. And I can do this any time of year. In the sweltering heat of August or in the icy misery of February, I can still claim my ripe tomatoes. How this is even a possibility I neither know nor care to investigate.
Here’s another thing I don’t understand: Abraham’s agonizingly long faith journey. In Genesis 12, Abraham hears God telling him that he will become a great nation (v. 2). This implies that he will possess (1) a sizable tract of land on which to house this nation, (2) a good deal of wealth with which to run this nation, and (3) innumerable descendants to populate the nation. All Abraham has to do (at first) is leave his homeland and head toward the foreign place that God will show him (Gen. 12:1).
Abraham obeys in faith and begins his journey.
It seems as though the wealth part of the promise came fairly quickly to Abraham, since he’s already quite rich as the next chapter begins (Gen. 13:2). But several years into the journey he remains both childless and deed-less. In fact, by the time Abraham dies, the wealth is still nearly all that he has.
Genesis 25:7 reports that Abraham lived to the age of 175, which means he lived a full 100 years after God promised to make him into a great nation. To that date, however, Abraham had just one son that counted (Abraham had eight sons in all, but sent seven away from his household. See Gen. 21:14; 25:6.) and a small plot of land he purchased in order to bury his beloved Sarah (Gen. 23:17-20). That’s it.
This all seems to me a far cry from the original promise given to Abraham and potentially demoralizing. Ugh!
Why am I so frustrated by Abraham’s eternal journey of faith? Because: Stop & Shop.
Any other fool from any other time in the history of the world would know, as in experience, the painfully slow and mysterious process of planting, done in the spring, and (wait for it…) harvesting, done so much very later in the fall. That’s right, it takes months and months to grow tomatoes, not 20 minutes. All vegetables and fruits (and for that matter hunting and fishing) take time. Lots and lots of time.
Faith is no different. Faith gets planted with a promise from the Lord and a positive step of obedience in response. But night and day, whether you sleep or get up, the seed sprouts and grows, though you do not know how. Seemingly “all by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head” (Mark 4:28). And then eventually, rest assured, a harvest will come.
To be sure, you may not end up being the one eating the fruit of your own faithful actions, but someone will. Someone is going to benefit from your seeds of faith. It just may take a while.