It’s in the waiting room where we learn to grow and grow slow.
We’ve visited the same stretch of beach nearly every year for twenty-five years. There is not enough distance between visits for my memory to lapse. When I’m back at the beach, I can access being seventeen and adventuresome.
And every year, there is one event that I scrapbook in my mind. Unfailingly, the happenings at the beach seem to mark the movement of God within my heart.
This year’s mark went like this: The place we vacation is a tangle of beach homes and bike trails at the edge of an island. Some years we spend just as much time on our bikes as we do in the sand, zipping in and out of neighborhoods, scouting for alligators and egrets and blue herons, the exotic creatures we midwesterners don’t see.
Two days into our trip and halfway through our evening family bike ride, one of the children slid farther and farther back from our group. We lightheartedly cheered her on, “inviting” her to keep up the pace, with no success.
She didn’t budge.
This irritated me.
In the time that it took for me to slow down to where she was and let the others pass, I eked out a prayer: Give me patience with her, Lord.
Whisper from God
So rather than chide her into keeping up with the others (something I’ve regretfully done in other areas of her life), I went her pace. We biked and talked. A little tenderness from me and her countenance lifted. (Having six people tell you to hurry doesn’t do a soul well.) And then I realized that I wasn’t only slow enough to see her—to look her in the eye and know that she just needed someone to be with her—but I was slow enough to hear Him. The setting sun lit the pond we passed. The bullfrogs sang in chorus. My little girl began to recover and even glow. Whether it was His creation speaking or Him, I don’t know, but it called me to attention.
This moment was my annual beach whisper from God.
Weeks earlier, I had asked Him about an upcoming writing project, and the phrase that came to me as I prayed over days was this: “Grow slow.”
Very little about life in the twenty-first century encourages the value of slow growth. The news and our Twitter feeds become dated after twenty-four hours. Babies learn to read and get potty-trained. Eight-year-olds can travel the country for select-team athletics. And Miracle-Gro promises to produce buds on my roses within days.
None of these things, by themselves, is wrong. None. God can feed five thousand from one kid’s lunch. He can speed growth.
But when we make the exception—fast and out-of-time growth—to be our standard for living, our souls can cave under the weight.
My puttering bike trip with the girl whose heart was reviving at the thought that she could “be” instead of having to keep in time and in step with her siblings was the picture of that phrase He’d given me—grow slow.
Slide the watch off your wrist. Open your eyes to the view along the way.
Grow slow feels hard to me when I peer at what others are doing. But it feels invigorating when I consider that the God of all time ordains my times and seasons—so when He says, Grow slow, the phrase promises growth. Grow slow isn’t stagnancy; it’s the true metric for endurance that our digital world doesn’t heed. What I get when I wrestle with this invitation not to grow as the world grows but to grow slow is the revelation that my heart is much more patterned toward the timing and thinking of the world than I’ve ever acknowledged.
I have a subtle drive to grow big and fast. Here’s how I can tell: I want our children to have the emotional dignity of thirty-five-year-olds when they’re twelve and in (normal) conflict with each other. In my more frantic moments, I want my four-year-old to learn his letters (and now), and I want someone, anyone, to see (with maturity) the connection between the number of condiments they use on their eggs and our ever-increasing grocery bill.
When I look closely, no one under my roof seems to be growing fast and big. Could the daily frustrations I feel trace back to my expectation that the best things in life explode overnight, rather than sit in the beauty of the slow and steady (and profound and lasting) growth that God often desires?
He Meets Me in the Waiting Room
God gives us the waiting room, yet I see that the waiting room is merely that for many: a place to sit and wait, restless. He gave me the waiting room in my infertility, in my marriage, and dozens of times since—in events both big and small. Gritting my teeth and enduring or checking my watch felt natural. It’s what you do in the waiting room. Yet this daughter, in this moment, opened me to hear His whisper, and I adored.
Psalm 62:5 tells me that my expectancy can grow in the waiting room. Against a world that speeds and a culture that tells me to hurry and an internal drive that measures my productivity, I adore through Psalm 62:5 and I stay on one phrase: My expectancy is from Him.
I unclench my fist as I adore. The memory of that bike ride brings back the smell of salty air.
I replace the expectations I have for my task list and accomplishments with Him. My expectancy is from Him, I tell Him and my soul as I adore. The waiting room looks different. Purposed. He meets me in the waiting room as I adore. It doesn’t feel so claustrophobic, so limiting. It feels expansive as I adore and imbibe His perspective on the waiting room. There is intention in that room. In adoration, I revisit the truth that expands my insides, over and over again without shame.
How can we wait with grace, adore God, and learn to grow slow in a world that spins so fast?
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