God is Slow

Posted on March 22, 2013


There are some books you love the first time you read them, but should never be re-read because they are sweeter in memory than in reality. You grow and change so much as a person that revisiting them is like a return trip to your high school: everything is how you remember it, except you.

This was my concern about re-reading The River Why, by David James Duncan. I loved it the first time so I approached it hesitantly, afraid I would discover it was not as good as my feelings toward it. Lucky for me, The River Why has held up through the intervening years and the changes in me. Duncan tells the story of Gus Orviston, fishing wizard and seeker of meaning. I won’t spoil the plot, first, because I want you to read the book and second, because the plot is secondary to this reflection.

I have no interest in fishing, but I am an introvert who likes to run long distances, so I could find myself in each scene where Gus sat by a stream, or walked for miles, or sought solitude to reflect on his life and its meaning. In the midst of a busy and chaotic time in my own life I was able to visit the forests and rivers of the northwestern United States. I got to travel along with Gus and he asked those existential questions that I am sometimes afraid to ask…Why are where here? Who is God? Where is God?

There are many answers to these questions, but one characteristic I am beginning to feel strongly about is the idea that God is slow. We often and easily affirm that God is powerful, all-knowing, and timeless. But I think God is more like a wise old tortoise than like a flash of lightning. When I read about Gus sitting and waiting I found myself thinking about those times in my own life when I had to sit and wait upon God. Waiting for jobs, children, jobs again, schools, friends, opportunities, test results, phone calls, emails (this time of year in Michigan: sunshine).

The vocabulary of waiting is not too common in our Christian vocabulary. At least, I haven’t picked it up along my journey.

Wait. Slow. Patience.

Listen. Breathe. Watch. Calm. Peace.

Rather we are more likely to use words like:

Study. Proclaim. Read.

Pray. Work. Serve. Believe. Share.

Is this because we want to be in control? Is this why all our words about our faith are so active? Is this because we want to accomplish our faith rather than accept it as a gift? In my case I think it is because at the end of the day I want to look back and check off what I’ve achieved. I don’t want to slow down, even if it means I can better feel God. I want to progress as fast as I can into the person God wants me to be. I want to be awesome at all things, including trusting God, and I want to be awesome right now. If I do convince myself to slow down (take a Sabbath) it is only to re-energize and redouble my efforts when my mental tires squeal off the line of my to-do list.

But the question stirred in me by The River Why was, what if life is mostly about slowing down enough to appreciate the gifts.

I’ll end with a little poem I wrote as a reflection on God.

God is slow

God is a turtle. God is a tree.

God is the dark and strong gravity.

God is a river. God is the sea.

God is sitting, here, with me.

God is a stone growing out of the ground.

God is the spaces in-between sounds.

photo: moonux

Posted in: Patience