Calendar pages have a way of turning over very quickly. Seasons roll from one to the next in what seems to be rapid succession. I, like many others, hear myself saying, “Where did the time go?” The tick-tock of father time has a momentum that no one has ever altered. Such is life – a forward-moving aggregation of the coming future and the receding past, which often becomes one big blur unless we stop to acknowledge the miracle that can only be produced in the context of time.
I walked onto my front porch yesterday to water the potted plants that have been growing all summer. Back in the spring when all the stores were beginning to display their array of garden florae, I bought a variety of seedlings to create my own outdoor flowering arboretum. I carefully planted each burgeoning bud in a decorative pot and displayed them on my flower cart and patio table. From new rose bushes placed in the perfect spots around my yard to petunias and geraniums bringing complimentary hues of color to augment my home, I was ready for my showcase of summer landscaping.
Throughout the summer, I have cared for my plants; and throughout the summer, my plants have grown. Now, at the end of summer, each seedling has matured into a big, beautiful, multi-bloom flowering plant. My pots overflow! What began as the promise of garden-like display has turned into a picturesque scene! How did that occur? They each had time to grow.
The summer sky is quickly departing as the season of fall rushes our way. Days are shorter; temperatures are cooler. All the elements that caused my garden to grow will soon disappear. Eventually, all that will remain will be the photos I have taken to remind me of that which was. With that reality settling in on my thinking, I decided to “stop and smell the roses.” I decided to take another moment to appreciate the results and the process that caused my garden to become what it was promised to be.
The process – now there is a comment that I might not always appreciate. Seldom does anything arrive in full bloom. The potential of a thing must be allowed the process of growth if the desired outcome is to be attained; and the challenge to continue maintaining the daily routine while time works its miracle is sometimes neglected. We will only patiently endure when we understand that things must be allowed time to grow.
Jesus told His disciples that His kingdom would be like a seed that was sown into the soil. It would need to grow. He also told them that His kingdom would be like leaven or yeast that would cause bread to expand over time. Both of His parables were, in part, His way of telling His followers not to expect instantaneous results but rather to understand that time would be necessary for the full transformation.
Both heavenly life and earthly life unfold little by little. Natural gardens and spiritual gardens grow. Promises become reality as time goes by and garden-tenders steadfastly tend their seedlings. And what will time produce? A miracle! Maybe the miracle will not be instantaneous, but it will be a miracle none-the-less. Miraculous transformation occurs when promises (and people) are given time to grow.
Their commonly held roots traced as far back as they could remember. They were both born into the lineage of Father Abraham. As the two kings stood side by side and engaged in dialogue, they knew their joint history. Abraham’s grandson Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. King Ahab’s tribe was Ephraim, which was the lineage of Jacob’s eleventh son Joseph and Joseph’s firstborn son Ephraim. King Jehoshaphat was born into the tribe of Judah, who was Jacob’s fourth son. These two kings were distant cousins who not only shared a past but were currently participating in a common future.
Years had passed since Jacob’s sons dwelt together in bedouin tents in Canaan. The sons became men, married, fathered, and produced tribes of families who carried the son’s names. Twelve tribes made one nation – the nation of Israel. Ahab and Jehoshaphat were keenly aware of their joint heritage. However, about 250 years before the two kings stood together considering engaging Syria in battle, the one nation of Israel divided into two nations: Israel and Judah. The broad gulf of diversity and opposition had continued to increase between the two nations, and the two kings were also keenly aware of their dichotomy.
Ahab was in favor of the war; Jehoshaphat was much more cautious. However, the cause – to protect and defend the city of Ramoth Gilead – was a just cause and a territory important to both nations. Ahab, undeterred from his declaration of conflict, sought to enlist the support and armies of the king of Judah. Jehoshaphat, reticent to engage, sought to enlist the support and confirmation of the Lord. Both men acknowledge the need of a wise counselor, but their common goal was approached from two divergent pathways.
Ahab harkened to his own advice and the words of the prophets that were on his paid staff. They spoke tidings to appease the king and confirm the veracity of his choice. Victory would be secured; Ahab would win; Israel would be triumphant. Emboldened by the council of his will and the confirming reports of his prophets, Ahab was prepared to go to war.
Jehoshaphat wanted validation of his intentions. He wanted to know what the Lord would say. The king of Judah, familiar with the broad chasm that existed between the worship practices of the two nations, expressed reluctance. Was the word of the prophets of Baal the same advice that he would hear from a prophet of Jehovah? Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord, was summoned.
Four hundred prophets for Ahab and one prophet for Jehoshaphat spoke. Ahab’s counselors promoted the war and guaranteed the victory. Jehoshaphat’s prophet forecast the opposite: Ahab would be killed in battle and the armies would return home without regaining the city. Ahab was enraged at the council. Jehoshaphat acknowledged the validity of the word but did not harken to the council. In union, the two nations went to war.
The common goal of war yielded two divergent outcomes. Indeed, Ahab died; and the war effort was thwarted. Jehoshaphat returned home and governed his nation Judah in accordance with wise council from the Scriptures and words from the Lord’s prophets. Then or now, to commoners or to kings, the axiom endures: heeded words from wise council are a sure foundation for unity and for victory.
The sun was barely peeking over the horizon as I found my way to the lounge on the back deck of my house. A book publisher’s deadline was breathing down hard upon me; and I was determined to take advantage of the quiet, early-morning hours before the busyness of my day drowned out my own thoughts. The air was damp with dew and just a little brisk. “Just what I need,” I said to myself, “a nippy breeze to stimulate my senses and make me fully alert.”
I placed my computer upon my lap and my cup of coffee at my side. Then, I focused. My brain began sorting through ideas and words. My deep concentration was broken by the sound of a bird chirping off in the distance. I smiled at the sweetness of the song. Barely had I refocused my thoughts until another melodic sound wafted from the opposite direction. “Listen to that beauty,” I advised myself. So I did.
My ears became aware of a symphony of sound. Several species of birds joined in song each with its own composition and tune. Off in the distance, the crickets added the timber of their clicks to the concert. At the edge of the pond sat the bullfrog, who lifted his base voice in harmony. I closed my eyes and drank in the masterpiece. So many layers of sound! So many gentle, non-intrusive melodies! So beautiful the often-missed, delicate tones!
I was enraptured. Tears brimmed and spilled upon my cheek. I was soaking in a moment upon which my attention seldom focused. “Who hears the soft sounds?” I asked myself. “Who listens to the gentle voices?” “Who notices the inconspicuous?” Engulfed in the sonata and lost in reflection, the moment was interrupted by a sanitation truck stopping at the driveway for an early-morning pick-up. Barely had it rolled on down the street than a car door slammed as the neighbor headed off to work.
Nature’s music faded to the background. Busy sounds and every-day noises took center stage. My mind returned to the chapter that I was writing. I tuned out all ambient sound. “Perhaps there are some faint ideas seldom heard inside my mind,” I said to myself. And, I began to listen to layers in my heart that are infrequently explored except in an atmosphere where daily life is quiet.
Jesus had a way of causing folks to listen to the sound of their own soul. One day He asked His disciples just who they thought He was. They recounted to Him all the sounds that they were accustomed to hearing. “Some say you are John the Baptist,” one follower replied.
“Others think you are Elijah,” another disciple reported.
“Jeremiah,” shouted a third voice.
“Everyone is sure you are a prophet,” proudly answered a voice from the crowd.
“Quiet! Listen inside,” Jesus encouraged. “Listen to the faint voice of your heart.”
Then Peter heard it – that subtle yet knowable, that quiet yet unmistakable, that inconspicuous but ever so obvious sound – Peter heard it. “You are the Christ. You are the Son of the Living God.”
“Good for you, Peter.” Jesus responded. “God put the truth inside and, when you listened, you heard it.”