I finally convinced Tracie to take a drive past our first house during our latest trip to Texas. We were in the neighborhood, literally driving within a stone’s throw of it. Just a slight detour, and we could see what had become of the place since we sold it almost 20 years ago.
I expected it to be different. I did not expect it to be that different.
The trees were the main thing. The house was newly constructed when we bought it, and the builder had stuck a live oak sapling in the front yard just so it would not be completely barren. If it was bigger than a silver dollar in diameter, it wasn’t by much. But now it is a full-grown tree. And so are all the other former saplings in the neighborhood. In our day, Cactus Rose Drive was constantly awash in bright, unfiltered sunlight. Now it is a picturesque pathway, covered in shade.
We all know intuitively that this sort of growth is natural — and even inevitable, to an extent. But we are always surprised anyway. “My, how you’ve grown!’” we always exclaim at the family reunion when the youngest member of the clan shows up. Like it’s bizarre for a 12-year-old to put on height in 12 months.
But growth is slow. In the moment, growth is usually invisible. But where there is life, there is growth — all the way to maturity. And as much as it warms my heart to see children grow into adults, it is far more uplifting to see babes in Christ achieve spiritual adulthood.
Just as with physical maturity, though, it takes time. It can be frustrating — both for the individual in question and for his or her mentors who are monitoring progress (or lack thereof). That’s why the skill of waiting is so important; it helps us find contentment in simply doing what God has required of us while we allow God to work His will.
We wait during personal challenges — “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that He waits silently for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:25-26). If Jeremiah could find peace of mind in the rubble of Jerusalem, surely we can find it in those days when we imagine that our world is crumbling around us.
We wait for personal growth — “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:30-31). The moment when we see ourselves in need of stronger faith always seems to be the moment in which we cannot find it. But God is accomplishing great things in us. He just isn’t doing it overnight. We have to believe that He will supply strength sufficient to withstand any onslaught of the “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8-10).
We wait for growth in others — “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). It is not enough to show our neighbors and brethren the right path to take; we must wait patiently. We should not assume plan isn’t working if we do not see something right away.
Great oaks from tiny acorns grow, they say. Sometimes it takes 20 years of absence to appreciate that. But if we have the proper attitude, perhaps we can start appreciating it now.