The Long Game: Embracing a Slow Walk of Faith

Posted by | November 27, 2018 | Blog | No Comments

By Amanda Jackson

“I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.”

-Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmstead was the landscape architect most famously known for his design of Central Park in New York City and for the grounds and gardens of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. What struck me so profoundly the last time I was at the Biltmore was the knowledge that the breathtaking beauty that I and my family were beholding was not what he ever witnessed in his lifetime. He had a vision for the long-term growth and development of the landscape. Growth that would take many years to come to fruition. You can walk on the grounds of that most impressive estate today and think it must be nice to have wealth of that scale to create such a place to live in and enjoy. The fact of the matter, however, is that neither Olmstead the landscape architect, nor Vanderbilt, the owner, ever saw it as we are able to today. That realization struck my modern-day instant gratification mindset as unfair. Further reflection has caused me to see it as incredibly beautiful and very healthy. When I parallel this to my spiritual walk I am able to settle into an appreciation for what our lives on this earth are capable of.

We are capable of so much, to be sure. We can effect much change and do much good for the kingdom. I fear, however, that in our culture of social media highlight reels and the emphasis of making a huge impact in whatever way you can, we might miss what is actually true for the average person: our life in Christ is a slow, mundane, and very ordinary feeling process. Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled The Long, Slow Walk of Obedience. The title alone captivated me and ministered to my heart before I read a word. It rang true to me. This is a long game we are in here. Morgan Snyder of Ransomed Heart ministries encourages people to measure their walk with the Lord by the DECADE. We want instant sanctification, don’t we? We want quantifiable success and fast. We want TO MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT possible. I’m not arguing that people don’t lead very fruitful and productive lives that make enormous kingdom impact. I AM arguing that MOST won’t see that kind of measurable influence in their day to day life. That’s not to say it isn’t there or isn’t growing in the soil of their obedience. It just may take time. Much like Olmstead’s landscapes. Moses’s ministry didn’t start until he was 80 years old. In the end, he never even settled into the promised land with the people he was leading. David never built the temple he had the passion and the vision to build. Abraham had to wait years before God fulfilled His promise of a son through Sarah. (I could devote an entire blog post to the mistake he made of trying to force God’s promise. I use the phrase “birthing an Ishmael” often; as in, I don’t want to do that!) We live in this culture that is trying to sell us the lie we’ve got to hurry up and get the thing done. Hurry, hurry, hurry. That sounds all fine and good until the Lord hits pause on your life. Will you trust Him in that? Will you allow Him to do a quiet work in you that no one will see or know about? Will you be content if it takes years? We are on His timetable, and it’s measured by eternity. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 reminds us this “slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  We have no idea what God is trying to cultivate in our hearts for His purposes and His plans. He is the potter and we are the clay. I heard a song this summer that had me in tears in this season of my life where I feel a bit “paused” by the Lord. I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves:

“Seasons” by Hillsong

Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience

Like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia

I know
Though the winter is long
Even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs
Even greater
Your promise for me
Like a seed
I believe that my season will come

Lord I think of Your love
Like the low winter sun
As I gaze I am blinded
In the light of Your brightness

Like a fire to the snow
I’m renewed in Your warmth
Melt the ice of this wild soul
Till the barren is beautiful

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting

You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child

Like a seed You were sown
For the sake of us all
From Bethlehem’s soil
Grew Calvary’s sequoia

Please go and listen to this song (on the There is More album from Hillsong) with the lyrics in front of you. It’s so beautiful. I sat in worship as the tears fell down my face, praising the God who “came as a child.” He’s a long-game God. He just is. He is a cultivator. A pruner. A crock-pot, not a microwave. If we can be willing to submit ourselves to this patient, loving Father and walk out this steady journey back to the garden, we will find ourselves content with His timing and trusting of His cultivating. We will be just as grateful for the mundane tasks set before us as we are for the more visible and noticeable ones. We will be accepting of the winter seasons that are quiet and dormant. We will learn to trust Him with the soil of our children’s souls. They are His and this life of growth in Him is a process that takes time. We must not forget Who we serve. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Surely do what? Verse 23 says “sanctify you completely.” I’m so thankful to serve an active, pursuing God. I rest that He will surely do it. It may not look like what my vision of it would be. But in obedient submission to Him? It will be exactly what I need.

This is a long road. It’s going to have curves, rocks, pits, and seeming dead ends. It won’t be flashy or impressive on most days. We may not get to see the fulfillment of the vision we had for His Kingdom. We will even have seasons that may feel entirely fruitless. We have to trust God. He will give us the feet and equip us for everything the road brings. Be encouraged. You are living this truth right now. My hope is to show you that nothing is wasted and that He is a God who takes His time. But in the end? I bet our faithful journey will leave behind a beautiful landscape for our lineage to inherit. And beyond even that? The journey we are on this side of heaven is merely a blip on the line of eternity. You have a Kingdom position that awaits you that I believe the Lord is preparing you for even now. Moses may not have lived in the promised land but He made it to THE PROMISED LAND and is walking in His inheritance. So will you. Our whole life is a preparation for the one to come. Take Heart! He has got you. Rest in this long walk. It’s not the end of your story.

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