Leaving a potluck and presentation at a local church, I stopped to talk to a professor who is involved in one of the faculty groups I facilitate. “Are you looking forward to retirement?” I asked.
“Not teaching, yes. However, I’m not sure how much my wife and I will be able to do. I didn’t think our bodies would put such limits on us,” he said with a sense of defeat.
Reaching the church exit, I greeted an older woman and asked how she had liked the presentation.
“Pastor was right about the difficulty of walking along those streets. I’m glad I visited the Holy Land years ago when I was able to walk the steps. If you’re thinking of going, you should do it sooner rather than later.”
I got it — don’t wait. In a span of five minutes, I heard this sentiment clearly. Twice.
I had attended this event to hear the story of one person’s journey to Israel and left with questions about my journey here in Cincinnati. These brief comments were warnings to me. I am the kind of person who wants to save up everything and wait until all is in order to do the next big thing or share it with others. I’m a solid number five on the Enneagram. I save up money, ideas, even a house. I’ll invite people over when I get the chair. (Or the Dutch oven.) I’ll finally send out a book proposal when the book is perfect. (Or once my platform reaches 10,000 people.) As far as going on the next big pilgrimage, I’m again saving and waiting — but for what? I reason that I need to read additional books and select the most life changing destinations before heading out again. Plans to return to England or travel to Prince Edward Island to follow in the footsteps of authors are on hold until everything is just right.
Although saving can be part of stewarding God’s gifts to us and waiting is often inevitable, both saving and waiting can be selfish. When Paul was waiting in Athens (Acts 17) he looked around, he interacted with people, he was open to the opportunities. If I had been in his shoes, I would have been licking my wounds from being run out of Thessalonica and Berea. I may have even saved up all the apologetic arguments that I could think of and written them down to be shared sometime in the future. It would have been nice to put the ministry on hold and wait for Timothy and Silas at a quiet inn. But that wasn’t Paul. Even while waiting for his partners to arrive, Paul couldn’t help but look for God’s call to him in this place. He saw the reality around him, engaged in the conversation, and shared God’s story. He was not saving up, he was sharing.
Waiting for the right time and saving resources feels safe as I prepare and think of the contingencies that could occur in all areas of life. I reason that I am responding to rational fears. However, with these fears driving me, I have the false notion that I’ll always have time to make that call to my sister or brother. Or to plan a trip. Or to write a book. However, time will not wait and opportunities will disappear. Someday my family may not be around or I won’t be able to go on that trip.
Still, it’s difficult to open up that door of possibilities. It’s easier to attend presentations and read books about others who have ventured out. What if it doesn’t turn out as I had planned? It may not. But the words from two wise elders that evening reminded me that I can’t keep waiting for everything to settle into place, especially when I keep adding more requirements to my plans. Instead, step out into what God has set in front of me now. So it’s time to get to the phone. It’s time to send out invitations. Maybe it’s even time to book a flight to London. Acting in the midst of uncertainty, even as I hold God’s hand, is frightening. Yet, I trust that I will encounter unexpected grace along the way.