Weren’t the struggles of Covid-19 enough? The lockdowns, the layoffs, the careers and dreams postponed or ended. And just as the impatience for a new normal grew to a breaking point, three weeks ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota happened. George Floyd. Protests grew by the day, demands for change that are not new. And they still go on, not only now in the US but around the world.
Impatience for change. What we felt before seems to increase even more. I confess the sense that I need to do something, feel something. As I have been writing about in recent months, I feel a need to lament, to cry out with the pain of all the world is going through.
But then I remember.
I call to mind that I need to quiet myself, humbled before the God I love and follow. Going deeper, seeking with His help to see my own areas of pain and wrong attitudes towards others. Turning from those attitudes, and longing to be the change I seek.
And I remember that true change, in my own heart or in the society around me, often does not happen overnight. The long perspective of history can help, knowing that we fight and labor on the shoulders of many that have gone before us. We must trust in the slow work of God.
A few years ago I was struggling with anxieties about the future. Anyone there today? In that period, I went to a meeting one evening with my spiritual director. I was sharing my fears, my impatience, my questioning. How long would this go on, I cried. Suddenly my friend got up from his chair, saying he needed to get something. What he brought to me was a copy of a treasured poem, for me the first time I had seen it.
I have been thinking of this poem again lately in all we are going through, when we need to accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. We want to skip stages, to get through to what the future will look like. I will never forget the power of this poem that night in my life. And I have experienced its truth more than once since. That I need to trust the slow work of God. It was written by Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Read it slowly. More than once. Let the words of trust and hope fill you today. It is not a call to passive inaction, but to hopeful dwelling. Center yourself today in the trust that God is at work, in you, in our broken world. Yes, we do need to find our voice and use it, but we also need to pass through the stages of instability and know that sometimes it may take a very long time.
I will be formed in that slow work. It may be dramatic, it may be unseen. But I will not give up believing for change.
In my life, and in my world.
Trust in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955)