Time and Space

Time. You’ve heard it said before, “There’s not enough time in the day,” or “Time is of the essence,” or “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future.” It is so common, especially in the United States, to perceive time as something scarce and limited, something working against us, something to be controlled.

Here in South Africa, things are perceived a little differently: time is vastly abundant (which is great news for me because I’m always running late by at least ten minutes… five on a good day). Here in South Africa, no ticking mechanical device controls peoples’ thoughts and actions. And contrary to common thought, an impending doom will not, in fact, descend upon the earth if something doesn’t happen exactly according to schedule!

Here in South Africa, the word “now” has no meaning. From what I’ve gathered, the phrase “just now” means sometime within the next half hour. “Now now” means sometime in the distant future. And “whenever” means sometime within the next few days depending on my schedule but don’t get your undies in a bundle if I don’t get to it till next week…

This perception of time is beautiful. Why? Because waiting has become a daily practice. We wait daily on meetings to start, buses to arrive, people to get ready, etc. And for many of us, it was (and continues to be) extremely frustrating. Why is that? Because American culture is a culture of immediacy. If you want something now, you can have it now. The concept of waiting is foreign. And patience? What is that?

I’ve found that being immersed in such a culture for the past twenty years has made it difficult for me to wait on the Lord as well. As I try to discern how it is that God wants me to serve Him and what His plans are for me here, I find myself wanting to know everything now! And the one word I keep hearing Him say is “Wait.”

“Wait? But it’s so hard! Why do I have to wait?” I plead. And the Lord answers, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

In “Secrets of the Secret Place,” Bob Sorge explains that when a prayer is not answered immediately, God often “strategically delays His miraculous visitation because He has greater things in store for you than you’ve even asked for. To give you the fullness of what He has planned for your life, He will use the season of waiting to prepare you as a vessel, and also to prepare circumstances around your life so that you will be able to step forward into the proper sphere when His release comes to you. He’s waiting so that He can crown you with an even greater blessing.”

I can’t even tell you how often I’ve prayed for something fervently for a week or two, but give up when it doesn’t materialize right away. Time and time again, I’ve failed the call to wait. It’s in the time of waiting that the enemy will do everything in his power to dissuade us from our watch. And though it may seem like insanity to keep waiting and watching, there is a day coming when God will change everything in a moment of time! …if we are faithful in waiting on Him and trusting in His perfect timing.

That’s why the African perception of time is beautiful – waiting is intricately ingrained. Today when I visited Masiyile Secondary School again, Machacha explained how the colored people of South Africa waited a long time for their liberation and how, after waiting years and years, the Lord opened doors for her to escape poverty. So instead of seeing time as the evading enemy, I’m learning to see it as the Lord’s sweet gift that He uses to tenderize and prepare our hearts for His grander plan. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

Space. As some of you know, for the past few months I’ve been struggling with feeling “distant” from God. For a while, I came to accept it as a “dry season.” Though I saw the Lord alive and active in extremely tangible ways around me, I wasn’t feeling the same sense of intimacy I once did – the kind that penetrates every layer of the heart and speaks sweetly to the spirit; the kind that both satisfies completely and kindles a burning desire for more.

I’ve since come to understand that the Lord is NEVER distant, no matter how far away He may feel at times. Tozer has this to say: “God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. But he is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence.” In other words, the Lord is ALWAYS close, but it isn’t until we take this truth deep into our hearts and let it ravage our reality that we begin to feel His manifest presence.

“But when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place…” (Matthew 6:6). I’ve read this passage time and time again, but never recognized the beautiful truth hidden within it. It says, “Your Father who is in the secret place,” which means that God is already there waiting for you the very moment you enter into prayer. Praise Him! He is closer than we could ever imagine!

What wonderful assurance to know that He is with me here in Africa, guiding my every step! I yearn to come into greater awareness of His imminent presence and closeness with every passing moment! “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” – Psalm 145:18

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