When the right time comes, I the Lord will quickly do this. (Isaiah 60:22b)
I recently had the good fortune to fulfill a life-long dream to drive across the country. The trip was itself a major step in another, much longer, more personal journey—a seven-year pursuit of the love of my life. But that’s another story.
As I made my way across our nation’s flatter states, a principle of life and faith slowly emerged in my consciousness, not unlike the gradual upward climb of the Rockies on the horizon as I made the journey west. I would be driving across the Oklahoma plains or the Texas panhandle, thinking about one thing or another or nothing at all, when suddenly I would realize in amazement, that it had been hours since I’d done anything of interest—no turns, no stops for gas or relief, not even a tap of the brake.
And then, quite surprisingly, I would look around find that I had ventured into a vastly different and dramatic landscape. I had not noticed the massive painted bluffs that had been creeping upward on either side of the highway. I had not anticipated the emergence of a vast canyon, nor the remarkable vistas it revealed. As anyone who has made the trip through the American West will tell you, there are spectacular sights to see along the way. Indeed there are. But most of the trek by car is actually quite boring and uneventful.
This reminds me of the old saying about a soldier’s life in a time of war, that it is months of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. We might say the same about our journeys, spiritual or otherwise, though hopefully without the terror part.
Reflecting on the larger journey I have been taking with the Lord, this is precisely how I might have described it. Though the faith-filled trip has lasted several years, with many significant events along the way, most of the time has passed with little event. Following the word of hope and promise from the Lord, most of the time since has been spent waiting and watching.
Toward the closing of this long spiritual journey, a short passage became very important to me, and I suppose it illustrates this point in a way. Isaiah 60 is a powerful prophecy promising the beleaguered people of Israel a future time of national restoration. Although Israel would endure a long exile in consequence of their rebellion against God, there would come a time, Isaiah assured, when they would again shine as a people. When and how would this come about? The Lord says through Isaiah, “When the right time comes, I the LORD will quickly do this” (Isa. 60:22b, NET).
From my picayune perspective, things tend to move slowly with God. We live in a big world, with more going on than we could ever hope to comprehend at once. Our faith journeys, by nature, will feel slow, deliberate, as if we were sitting in a car amidst the vast American plains, with little to do but peer out at the endless flat horizon. Nothing seems to happen.
And then, suddenly, at the precisely the right time, it seems the Lord acts in one swift and decisive move. We had not seen it coming. Night had been black around us for hours on end. And the fulfillment comes as a sudden sunrise, punctuating our long uneventful wait with joyous surprise.