(Reprint from January 6, 2009)
I heard this today:
“Forming people in Christ as a slow work, so it can’t be hurried;
it is an urgent work, so it can’t be delayed.”
Eugene Peterson said it. He’s the pastor and teacher who “wrote” The Message. It’s a paraphrase, taking the Bible and telling it in contemporary language and images. I find it helpful because it gives a different flavor to the text.
Peterson understands something about slow and urgent work. That’s what paraphrasing the whole Bible takes. Some of us struggle with just reading it all. He read it. He reread it. He looked at multiple translations. He looked at Greek and Hebrew texts. He drafted and revised and prayed and listened and wrote and finished.
He had to start. He couldn’t rush.
Between Matthew 2:23 and 3:1 there is nothing. This is 25 years of Jesus’ life and we know nothing. Years of being a teenager. Years of carpentry. Years of learning and teaching, questioning and answering.
We would love to know what happened, but Matthew gives us nothing.
Growth takes time. It happens outside the spotlight. It is measured in years and decades. We want feedback all the time. We want to know that we are getting close. We want to know that we are making progress. We want all the details.
When we don’t see progress, we think that that maybe this, whatever the learning and living task is, doesn’t matter after all. We don’t start or we give up.
Following Jesus is a commitment of a life and a commitment to a life. Some of that life will be in the spotlight, with cool miracles. Some will be in the spotlight with opportunities for martyrdom. Most of it, however, years and decades, may be in slow quiet shaping.
But don’t think it isn’t urgent.