Last week, a delay by God disappointed me. It also shocked me awake like smelling salts.
For ten years, I’ve wanted (and waited) to write a book on hearing God. Last month, I finally finished it. And I’ve paid a professional to edit it, commissioned an artist to design it, and found a proofreader to fine-tune it and a marketing expert to promote it.
I originally planned to publish Hearing God in Conversation last May, but I was hindered by a month-long bout with pneumonia, friends with unexpected needs, and my first ever (hopefully my last ever) IRS audit.
After months (and years) of postponements, my book was finally ready for release September 1st.
Then a friend slipped a copy of my manuscript to a publisher. The publisher invited me to meet their management team. And the team offered me a contract last week. But a contract with a hitch (because we missed an important publishing industry window). If I sign their agreement, my book’s release date will be deferred by yet another year. Argh!
I was disappointed, dismayed by another delay (though thrilled that they liked the book). I asked myself: Should I publish it myself in three weeks or wait another twelve, long months?
And then one of my smart-aleck kids (never mind which one) commented, “Gee Dad, you’re writing a book about hearing God; have you asked him what you should do?”
The thing is, God has been speaking to me
When I talk about God, my temperament is to tell people of his wonderful, soul-restoring love. That’s why I wrote my first book, Is Sunday School Destroying our Kids?, to reveal how legalism—trying to gain God’s favor by good deeds—destroys our sense of his love. I want people to hear, know, and experience the life-changing love of God.
But recently God is speaking to me about something else, and it isn’t the sweetness and delight that I prefer. He is teaching me about the hard edge of the good news.
I’m re-learning what it means to give my life to God. It means this: I give my life to God! Sure, it begins when I receive his undeserved love, but I receive it only when I call him, “Lord.”
Who’s in charge anyway?
I rarely think of God in terms of “Lord” and “Master.” (Who even uses those labels anymore?) I tend to picture him more as a benevolent Santa Claus who chuckles Ho Ho Ho as he parcels out neatly wrapped presents. But: Lord? He is completely in charge? Obedience?
I agree that obedience is important. No more theft, adultery, or snobbery; and let’s smile at the bus driver and tip the cabbie. But the operative phrase is, “I agree.” Many of God’s commands make sense; the world will be a better place if everyone loved their neighbor.
But if I base my decisions on agreeing with God, then I’m not obeying. I’m just concurring. If I only do what makes sense to me, the person in charge is still me. But what if he really is my Lord? Then:
- He can allow events in my life that I don’t understand;
- He can issue commands that makes no sense to me, commands I may loathe;
- I have to move beyond just agreement and learn to obey, even when I disagree;
- And I have to learn to wait.
Because waiting often makes no sense
As a kid, I never once peeked at my Christmas presents. I loved the anticipation, holding off until Christmas morning. The beautiful wait made wonderful sense.
But I hate delays that I don’t understand, when things don’t happen according to my (brilliant) schedule: I think I’ve blown it, or someone else has. Maybe God has. So I struggle to bring “it” about according to my sense of timing. And I’m not alone:
- Adam and Eve ate the apple because it didn’t make sense to them not to.
- Abraham had Ishmael because he thought God needed help with timing.
- All the disciples abandoned Jesus because the cross was sheer nonsense.
When I ask God about publishing my book, I hear him ask me a question in return: Who is Lord? Elisabeth Elliott once wrote,
God is God, and since He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in His will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.