We live in an “on-demand” culture. Lattes at lightning speed; 24/7 package delivery; and digital meetings any time, any place. What we want, we can get, and in a hurry.
Except with God.
Our God is not an “on-demand” God. Our God is a demanding God. He desires to bless us, and His compassionate Heart knows the best way. He has certain prerequisites to releasing His blessings, and a main one, I have found, is surrender to His will and His timing.
I call this surrender “being on the Abandonment Bus.” Now, there is no one on this bus except you and the driver, God. The bus is not a popular vehicle, and you cannot be forced to climb aboard. Most people avoid it because with riding this bus comes a loss of control. We sit in the middle row, staring out the window at all the wonderful things we wanted, watching God drive right past them.
But our understanding is often too limited, our expectations too low, in comparison with what God has planned. When we allow Our Lord to take the driver’s seat in our lives, in complete submission to His Will, His destination is not the end of the line. It is the beginning of the journey. He often delays, and even detours, only to manifest His sovereign wisdom and bestow His best.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and rely not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I used to think that idols and strongholds were Old Testament artifacts. We don’t worship idols in 2021, right? Wrong. We often make an idol of our own understanding. We know the way. We have the plan. If only the Lord would be a better listener, if only He delivered as efficiently as Amazon, we would be getting somewhere.
But Our God is more Awesome than that. And He wants us to know it.
He led the Israelites on a circuitous route through the desert which ended at an impasse. Sound like your life story?
“God did not lead them along the main road. . .even though it was the shortest route to the Promised Land. . . .God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
Lord, we cry out, You took a wrong turn! Now the way forward is blocked! I was supposed to get that blessing over there. My path was set. The healing was supposed to be a long time ago. I have prayed and believed for years. My deliverance from bondage is overdue. But, instead, we wait.
So, what are we waiting to receive? God’s best.
God does not want us to settle for a secondary good that will ultimately disappoint us. Like the Israelites, we are often satisfied with second best. This is fine, Lord. We can handle this amount of pain. The slavery isn’t so bad. But He wants to part our Red Sea. He wants to move our mountain, precisely because we cannot.
If I finagle my own blessings, and micro-manage the mergers, and buy my own Christmas presents, then I may have what I want. But it may not be what God wants. And, at times, these are two completely different things.
We often avoid abandonment because we do not know where God is leading. It can take a long time to reach the destination Our Lord has chosen. Delays terrify us. So, we drive ourselves.
But our faith’s patrimony is filled with astounding individuals who waited for God’s best:
St. Anne – a lifetime of waiting, so she could be given not just a little girl, but the Mother of God for her daughter.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux – a closed door every time she knocked at Carmel, and a “just wait” from the Holy Father, so she could become Love itself in the heart of the Church.
St. Joseph – a humiliating rejection of no room after no room for his expectant family, so he could shelter the Incarnation in the quiet sanctity of the Holy Grotto.
God delights in a faithfulness beyond anything we could fathom: “So that all who see this miracle will understand what it means – that it is the Lord who has done this.” (Isaiah 41:20)
As we celebrate the Feasts of August, including such spiritual giants as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe and St. Monica, watch the Lord’s Hand on their lives. Kolbe lost everything, printing press, apostolate, life, to consecrate his Militia Immaculata through blood. Monica wept and prayed and clung to the hope that God would fulfill her desire for a holy son, and birthed Augustine twice into life, physically and spiritually.
When God drives the Abandonment Bus, He is directing you to a better outcome. Just hold on. The Lord will take our idols, our understanding, our timing, our control, and He will make a way in the wilderness. “You shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted that which was desolate.” (Ezekiel 36:36)
We look not at the size of our problem, our cross, our crisis, but at the greatness of God. He does what we cannot – if we let Him. When we let go, we allow Him, “who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Infinitely more. He is God. His best is yet to come.
Editor’s note: Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell is teaching two courses through the Avila Institute’s School of Spiritual Formation this fall: the Life and Thought of St. Edith Stein and Masterpiece of the Divine Artist, exploring the concepts of beauty and sanctity in Edith Stein’s writings. We invite you to register or find more information on the Avila Institute’s website.
Image credit: Rembrandt or workshop, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.