“God did not invent hurry”
– an old Russian proverb
I’ve always thought it ironic that the origin of the proverb “God did not event hurry” was Russian. Actually, the Finnish claim the proverb, too, so maybe the Russians stole it for the express purpose of pun-ishing the Finns. But whatever the provenance of the proverb, I believe it brings us great wisdom just in time for Pentecost.
Pentecost is the Sunday on which we celebrate birth of the Church: when we remember the day on which the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples who had gathered in Jerusalem, as Jesus had promised she would, when he expressly told him to go there and wait. Pentecost is also the name of the Jewish holy day on which they had gathered and on which the Holy Spirit made her promised appearance.
Some crazy things happened on that day, the way the disciples describe it: a mighty wind, doves descending, tongues of fire on people’s heads, hearing and understanding people of other tongues like they were speaking your own language. I’ve seen it depicted so many different ways in so many different icons and illustrations. But one icon caught my attention and hasn’t yet let go. Not only did it show the disciples with fire erupting from the top of their heads, but also depicted them suspended in mid-air, with their toes inches above the floor. It was as if God had lifted them up into a timeless eternity, in which time – and with it the busy-ness of the world around them – came to a halt. For a few-second-long eternity…they were in God’s time.
What would I give for that experience? What would you give? If anything, it seems like time today is running in the opposite direction: faster and faster and faster, until it leaves us feeling stretched so thin, that we feel like we are being drawn into a black hole of busy-ness. We, our friends, our spouses, and our families are so over-scheduled that we seem to be playing tag-team with ourselves, with requests for new dates and times coming at us so fast that half of them don’t even make it to our calendars, with tidal waves of emails and Facebook notifications and Tweets coming at us so fast that sometimes we just seem to sink beneath them until we come up gasping for breath and finding out that the vast majority were requests for your time and attention that have been “overtaken by events.”
It used to be that we could schedule a church social or educational event mid-week and people would actually come. Now, with extracurricular demands on our time – and especially our children’s time – we can’t even count on people being free for church on Sunday mornings. We keep getting the message from the culture around us that unless we get our children into the right soccer, swim, drama, or T-Ball club by age three, we can throw away any thought of them attending any decent college someday. We feel like we are being driven before gale force winds that we can never get ahead of.
I’m not sure what the solution is. People don’t even have the time to read all their emails (and yes, I know we in the church often contribute to that flood), and even when they do read them, don’t have the time to respond to them, let alone transfer the church event dates to which they refer (events from which we or our children could benefit and which we would really like to attend) onto their calendars. Maybe it’s a call for us to be more of intentional and discerning in our choosing. Maybe we have to totally re-think the way we schedule church. Maybe we just have to wait a while until God brings us an answer.
Meanwhile, I invite you to claim next Sunday (May 24) as a time of timelessness.