“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” -Anne Lamott
God's Perfect Timing – The Time Series – Part 1
People often say, “All in God's time.” And they mean well (me included). But hang on, what does it mean?
Is God's timing perfect? Is it appointed? Does he plot and plan time and the experiences therein like we plan our next vacation? Or what we’re having for dinner? Or when we’re having coffee with the crew?
We view time in a linear way – a straight line marked by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. We build our lives around appointments at a certain hour, on a certain day: “what time does “This Is Us” start on TV tonight? What time do we need be at work by? How much time do we have to spend with your in-laws? Can we leave early and save us some time?”
We fill our minutes with work and rest and play and mark the time as we travel along it. Time is a marker.
When we say “all in God’s timing,” (me anyway), we’re rarely addressing ‘the moment that the time is fulfilled,’ we’re trying to justify the waiting. Do we wait in God’s perfect timing for his perfect timing? Do our needs arise at the perfect moment, then we endure the waiting as if on schedule, just like the time when the need is fulfilled and waiting ceases has been scheduled, too?
A simple google search turns up pages of people referencing “God’s perfect timing” in response to seasons and moments and issues and sicknesses and loneliness and heartaches that they couldn’t explain otherwise. We have a hard time coming to terms with the waiting – the liminal space – and God’s seemingly sacred and secretive schedule. Which is apparently pre-meditated and perfect.
“God’s perfect timing” is too often a cover-up or distraction from what we can’t explain, or don’t know how to process, or our own fear of the unknown. And then we call it faith.
When we’re waiting for something, faith is the thing that keeps us walking down the road titled “God is real, and he loves me, and he is with me.” And sometimes, that is all we can ever know about a certain thing happening at a certain time. But faith should never be used to pacify, ignore, or distract us from the unknown quantities and dissonance at work in our lives.
Instead of using faith as a means to ignore and pacify the unknown, it should propel us into the heart of it. In different seasons and times of our lives, we face certain things, and we wait for certain things. In both spaces of time, it's our faith that leads us to lean in and show up.
Anne Lamott writes,
“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me – that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
Don’t use “all in God’s timing” as a lazy answer, a pre-generated encouragement.
Hidden in the question “when will reprieve come?” is the fear that we will not survive to see the time that it does.
At the heart of it all, the deeper question, the one we’re more afraid of is, “how will I endure the waiting…”