When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Exodus 32:1
I am a fairly patient person. I actually think it is a gift of mine. Nevertheless, I have no problem at all understanding the restlessness of the Hebrew people waiting for Moses to return from 40 days on Mt. Sinai. At a time in their new chapter when there were precious few “routines” upon which they could rely, one routine had become Moses’ “felt presence” among them. Another had become God’s visible presence through the pillar of smoke (by day) and fire (by night). And now, they had neither. All they had was Aaron, who was pretty clearly a far cry from Moses’ dynamic leadership. So, with Moses’ disappearance up the stormy, thunderous Mt. Sinai for an unscheduled, undisclosed amount of time, the hours turned to days and the days turned to weeks. They had no idea IF or WHEN he might ever return. I have no problem understanding the immense pressure these people began to place on Aaron’s not-so-broad shoulders. “Don’t just stand there…DO SOMETHING,” became the mantra of a restless, fearful people waiting for their God to show up and really set them free. As a church leader, you are probably familiar with that refrain.
In my experience, patiently waiting for God to show up can be the most difficult assignment we are given as God’s people. There is nothing easy about it at all. In a world and a culture where we are taught to take responsibility for our own fate and feel constantly pressed to “write our own story”, waiting for God’s timing can feel insufferable…because, in truth, God’s timing is rarely our timing. When it comes to waiting for our next assignment, God’s timing can be unbelievably slow (remember that Moses spent his best young adult years…ages 40-80…waiting for his next assignment). But when it comes to obeying what God has already called us to do, His timing is NOW and we might rather have a little longer to weigh all the options and the possible consequences. The reality is, God’s timing and our own sense of timing just rarely match up.
So it is with the church and with God’s work in and among a local body of believers. On the one hand, He does seem to “tarry” through entire seasons when we, as a church, are waiting for resolution of some pressing issue which we are convinced is the single most important thing going on in our midst. On the other hand, He probably grows increasingly impatient, waiting on us as His people to be obedient in many of the things to which He has already spoken clearly. And you, my fellow church leader, have the daunting task of standing in the middle and interceding on behalf of a stiff-necked people and speaking the truth about God’s timing to those very same people. You must have one eye on the spiritual realm, one eye on the very real world in which your people live, and a compelling message which connects the two. You must work tirelessly and gently to change a people’s perspective from their own sense of timing to God’s timing. You must at times be a non-anxious presence teaching them patience, and at other times be a voice of truth and urgency in matters of immediate obedience.
And, in the end, those same people with whom you have lovingly contended on these fronts will have precious little appreciation for why you cannot seem to find the time to be all things to all people. Isn’t this fun?! God’s people are impatiently waiting for God to show up and “free them” from whatever shadow looms large on their radar screen and you get to be the spiritual voice of reason, assuring them that God is here and will answer in His time. We have much work to do in that regard!
Ready? Set? Here we go!