Those Who Wait

A year ago ago this decade-old geranium was near death. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it, so I nursed it instead, giving it a new pot and fresh soil, proper watering, and the prime sunny spot in the garage for the winter.

It’s been on my porch all summer, but today I looked up from my reading and actually saw it. It has more blooms than ever before. Half facetiously, I anthropomorphized my geranium. I was happy for it in a way that a parent is glad to see their child who has struggled so terribly finally flourish.

But this isn’t about my awesome, resilient, over-achieving child geranium. Look closely at the picture above, and see what I finally noticed as I crouched with my camera, centering and getting the light just right. That’s my dog photo bombing my geranium’s fifteen seconds of fame.

She was waiting for me to throw a toy, as I frequently do from the advantaged, elevated level of the porch. She’s a border collie, a herding dog, bred to stay with livestock for hours and days on end. Patience is her virtue. Even her slinky posture as she waits is due to her breed: often cat-like, poised for speedy reaction.

I guess she was there in the yard, waiting in that position, for up to thirty minutes before I spotted her through my camera’s viewfinder. When I’d first noticed the geranium and stood to take its photo, at my feet was another of her Frisbees. She had obviously deposited it there before assuming her post in the yard.

She does this “waiting” both outdoors and in, anticipating my propulsion of any number of gnawed balls or discs. I oblige for awhile, then inevitably busy myself with chores or projects. An hour later when I finish my task, she is still there. Waiting. Focussed. Expectant.

Ponder this:  She’s waiting for me, not another person. So I respond to her. I throw the Frisbee, kick the ball, let her in, let her out, take her for a run when she’s fidgety from inactivity. If she took up her post at the periphery of our yard for passersby to notice, to come play, to engage with her, I would respond differently. I wouldn’t stop to attend to her, I’d keep on keeping on with my own thing.

If she put distance between us and had her back to me, searching for someone other than me to respond to her, it would be futile for me to attempt interaction. If she were oblivious to my existence, it would be pointless for me to attempt engagement; I would be throwing my efforts to the wind. She would be heedless to my affection, devotion, love, direction, caution, discipline, or teaching. If she was looking anywhere and to anyone besides me, I would have no reasonable choice but to continue my day independent of her.

But she doesn’t do that. She waits for me.

Because she waits for me, I take notice of her expectations. What does she want from me? What does she need? She’s looking to me to engage with her, meet her desires and needs … so it is I who responds.

It is I who studies her face and body language. It is I who learns her idiosyncrasies, her behaviors, the constants about who she is. It is I who steps in to keep her safe, to redirect her bad habits, to train her. It is I who has a plan in place to guide her to her potential.

It would be a shame for her, and a shame for those who will share her life with her, if I were to turn away when she looked to me.

I have “the sky’s the limit” in mind for her potential. She’s only a year old, so she’s far, far from that now, but I don’t expect her to be there yet. She can’t be there yet. She still has much developmental maturation ahead. I only expect her to progress, at the pace she can, toward her full potential.

I also don’t expect her to get there by herself. She can’t get there by herself. She needs my commitment to her, my patience, direction, repetition and consistent expectations. She needs me to provide opportunities to challenge her. She needs me to set her up for success. She needs me to understand that incremental successes rejuvenate, encourage, and motivate to take on the next challenge. She needs me to understand that too many failures will convince her “the ground is the limit” instead of “the sky is the limit”.

I am pleased to act on behalf of my dog who looks to me, who waits for me. I am committed to her for the long haul, for her lifetime.

How much more, then, would our Father commit to people? I include every person on Earth — we are all his if we look to him, if we turn from having our backs to him to having our faces to him.

If we have all our lives thought him “fictional”, but one day decide to consider him as “real”, and if we genuinely look to him to respond, he will. He may require us to wait a bit, to separate those who are sincere from those who are disingenuous, but he will respond at least in proportion to our degree of expectation.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV):  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

If we give him more and more of our concerns and issues to address, he’ll respond even more — he is there to help as much as we expect him to.

If we give him all of ourselves to love, direct, caution, discipline, teach, transform, heal, rejuvenate, motivate, and fulfill, then he will respond beyond what we ask or imagine. With God, his hope and expectation for each of us is, “the sky’s the limit.” But we need him to get us there.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV):  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

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All Kinds of Sheep

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  John 10:27

There are sheep who don’t listen to nor follow His voice, sheep who follow everything but the Holy Spirit. They go the opposite direction entirely, or run a somewhat parallel course. Until that road diverges and they end up miles and miles from the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd.

Some follow not God but people, especially leaders who sound sure of themselves, or who present a “feel-good” gospel such as legalism. Doesn’t it feel good to be always right? Doesn’t it feel righteous to never need to go through those refining fires you demand of others? Doesn’t it feel set-apart to be morally superior to everyone who doesn’t conform to your belief structure?

Stop and ask yourself:

Did you shop around for same-breed sheep so that you can all affirm each other in your “rightness”? Do you view “outsiders” as all wrong without turning that same critical lens on yourself? Do you think, “They are wrong, they are lost sheep” without seeking God’s insight on the heart of each and every one of those people you so cavalierly lump together? Do you put on your “good Christian” costume, complete with a forced, compassionate smile, say “God loves you,” and then inflict corrupt laws, guilt, shame, or manipulation on them? Do you force-feed Koolaid — pollution, poison, cyanide — all in the name of Christ, in order to gain others’ conformity or to position yourself as their guru? Do you corral those who are insecure and vulnerable, or lower people in your eyes so that you can lord over them? Do you look for and play to people’s needs, lavish compliments and gifts, or amp up the charm to obligate them to you?

Do you silently and shamelessly communicate, “I have conformed. I do what is expected. Now you conform to me or to us. Do what we demand and expect of you. It is the Great Commission of which we fastidiously participate. It is love. It is freedom. It is The Way”

Is it?

Or is it this?:

Doing what is expected will produce a splendid Pharisee.

(“The Taproot of Religion and Its Fruitage”, by Charles F. Sanders.)

Stop and reflect:

Who are you following? If it’s a person or group, are you denied the right to think for yourself? Because that doesn’t happen when you are in relationship with God — He is a Counselor, a Teacher, a Friend who confides and shares insight and who listens and understands. He is a Helper, a perfect Father, a fiercely-protective but astoundingly-gentle Shepherd.

flock of sheep with shepherd, free image

Maybe it’s not a false shepherd that you are following but YOU that you are following. Check your motives. Inspect your heart. Do you find yourself rationalizing your distorted theologies? Are you sure you ever stood on the solid rock of truth of Christ and Christ alone? Did you at one time and have since drifted from it? Has it gone on so long that you are no longer aware of the distance between you and God? Did you refuse His help, direction, and discipline He so lovingly offered in the past? Have you expected His long-suffering patience to last forever while you knowingly, habitually, pridefully reject His interventions on your behalf?

Are you looking for an easy ride on the shirt-tails of someone who is doing all the work? Do you plan to use them to reap the benefits and rewards of their hard labor? Are you too important, too proud, or too dishonest to lay yourself bare at God’s feet and let Him do what He wants with you? — however painful it may feel or long it takes? — regardless the loss of some part of yourself that you know is wrong and yet refuse to give up? Do you follow after anything BUT the Holy Spirit of God because you want a shortcut? Is it because you know at this point you may be left behind to go through His consecration process while others who already did that hard work over long years move on ahead?

Remember:

Matthew 7:13-14

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Many Christians think that applies to “non-believers”.  They are exempt from any concern. But there’s this:  

Matthew 7:21-23

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

My prayer is:

That you press on to find the narrow gate and enter through it. Nobody can find it for you, it is between you and God. Do you genuinely search for the gate? Do you sincerely want Him or not? Do you seek Him? Yield to Him? Desire Him? Do you actually love and obey Him? — You can fool people and deceive yourself that you do, but not God, of course God knows. So seek Him. Sincerely. He guarantees to you that you can find him. It’s never too late to start, or too hopeless to begin again.

Gate, field free

Jesus said:

John 10:9

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Jeremiah 29:13

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.