Several years ago, I came across an illustration that I clipped and tucked away in my file. Recently while organizing some items, that little illustration surfaced. Sometimes God makes what I call “holy nudges” when I least expect it, and this little story was as meaningful to me today as it was when I clipped it. Here is my version of the illustration.
A young pastor was facing some dark and challenging days in his current pastorate. He was frustrated and defeated by the day-to-day challenges of ministry and reached out for help. He picked up the phone and called an older friend who was a long-term pastor of a local congregation. He said, “I can’t take it anymore…I’m done.”
The older, wiser minister could hear the young man’s pain and asked, “Do you have an envelope handy? The young man looked at his desk to the #10 envelope which he had intended for his resignation letter. “Yes, I have one here on my desk.” “Good,” the older minister said, “hold it up in front of you and put your finger on the top left corner. Now, slowly run your finger along the top edge of the envelope from left to right.” The young man was confused.
The veteran minister told his young friend, “The left corner is where you started when you were installed in your church. I have no idea how long you will travel along that level of time, but you haven’t reached the corner yet.” He went on to say, “At the corner, God is there showing you a new direction, and it comes only after you have walked the long journey to that point. You’re not at the corner yet. You must run the race with faith and work until the job is done. It’s not over yet; you’re not at the corner.”
Every Christian gets frustrated along the journey of life, but we must be patient for the Lord to give us new directions. It isn’t until we take the long journey that we find the new edges, and long edges take considerable fortitude.
We pray to the Lord, “Send me,” but when we are sent, why don’t we want to stay?
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
Lord of Sea and Sky, we have heard your people’s cry, but we are not as patient as you would have us be with them. Our world programs us for quick fixes and drive-through orders, and that’s not how your world works. Remind us that if we try to open the bud ourselves, we destroy it, but if we wait on your timing, it will be beautiful and perfect—just as you designed it. May we have the courage to go where you send us, but may we have the strength to say until the work is done. We pray in Christ Jesus, whose longsuffering we desire to mirror to the world, Amen.