I've known something about God for awhile, but just recently accepted it.
God is all about the process.
At various times in my life, I believed deep down in the basements of my heart that God would snap his fingers and suddenly everything would be better.
Once in junior high, my mom left me unsolicited at the hair salon for a haircut. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I told the stylist to cut my hair short. Like short short -- boy short -- and to please leave a rat tail in the back (I just heard a collective gasp). I thought it would be so hip and cool.
My unsuspecting mom comes to pick me up, takes one look at me and I kid you not, sobs uncontrollably. Just sobs and sobs and sobs. I instantly didn't feel very cool or hip anymore, and felt miserable. And I distinctly remember lying on my bed crying my eyes out and pleading to God with everything in me that he would grow my hair back while I slept that night. With all seriousness, I really had every faith in the world that I would wake up with my long hair back.
But I woke up with my short hair. And sadly, the rat tail was still there.
And I learned an invaluable lesson that day, at a mere 13 years old -- very, very rarely does God reach down with a snap of his mammoth fingers. Instead, he is all about the process. For me at 13, it was a slow process of not just growing my hair out, but the process of regaining my mom's trust.
Now that I'm at the end of a pretty rough season, I've been able to look back at the events that unfolded this past year with a perspective only God could provide. And as I begin to let go of my questions, doubts and frustrations, God has shown me through his Word that yes, indeed, he is all about the process.
The end result -- while important -- isn't the goal. The goal is to become as Christ-like as we can while inhabiting this earth. And that's not something that happens overnight.
As you read through the Bible, example after example jumps off the page displaying God in Process. And I have found a couple different fascinating things about God in Process:
1) He intentionally draws out over time what he could do in an instant, and
2) even after The Process is over, there is always an action step required for the person (or people) participating in said Process.
Let's start at the beginning -- God created the world. It took not an instant, but seven days.
Then he then created man. But man didn't just appear, God "formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Gen 2:7).
Then God created woman. But she didn't just appear either. "So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh." God purposely had a specific process for all creation. He intentionally didn't just snap everything into existence.
The action step for Adam and Eve after The Process? "Be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen 1:28).
His process was creation. Their action was multiplication.
And look at Noah. God was angry with the sinful condition of man, and decided that instead of just zapping each person out of existence, he was going to flood the earth. But wow, what a process!
First Noah had to build the ark. Then the rain started, but it rained for 40 days. But that wasn't all. The waters flooded the earth for 150 days (Gen 7:24). And that still wasn't all. "The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible" (Gen 8:2-5). And that still wasn't all. Noah waited for the waters to recede for another 40 days before sending the raven and the dove. And it took a couple more weeks of dove-sending before that bird stayed gone.
It was a year-long process God put Noah and his family through. He intentionally didn't just zap everyone away. The action step for Noah and his family? "Come out of the ark" (Gen 8:16) and "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 9:1). His process was sanctification. Their action was starting over.
Another profound example is when the Israelites come to the Red Sea. They feel they have reached the end, the enemy is coming. They cry out and complain to Moses that he should've just let them be in Egypt. Despite their complaining, distrust and fear, God decides to bring them through the sea. But what's important to note is that the sea didn't just automatically part. "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land" (Ex 14:21).
It took a wind of the Lord all night to draw that water back. I can just imagine what those people were going through as they waited all night long, can't you? Fearful that at any moment the Egyptians would appear and attack. Frustrated that whatever God was up to was taking too long. Anger that on top of it all they now had to deal with a strong east wind that is blowing dust all over the place and ruining the manna. I don't know that they really realized God was In Process for them. But he was...his way...in his time. And even with this miracle, they still had to walk through it. His process was deliverance. Their action was to cross over.
Sometimes we're aware that God has us In Process, but it seems ridiculous and frivolous. Like Joshua, those same Israelites, and the city of Jericho. God said, "March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
I mean...come on. Really?? If I had been there, I would have thought God had spent too much time as a pillar of cloud. But they did it. Every one of them. I think God's process was multi-faceted, but one key reason for this seemingly ludicrous process stands out to me -- God needed to get his people to trust him. With every footstep outside that wall each of those days, I think they began to build up confidence. I believe they began to see that city wasn't really so big. With every silent march, they were alone with their thoughts for God to do some amazing work in their hearts.
And finally, on that last day, on that last round...they were free to shout. And after 7 days of silence, I'm sure it was a good one. Full of vim and vigor, because they had increased trust in their God, and had to release it before it would burst. And those walls 'came a-tumblin' down.' God intentionally didn't just hand over the city to them. They had to circle around it, size it up, trust God and shout. And then, even after a miraculous crumbling, God required more of them. They still had to charge straight in and take the city (Josh 6:20). His process was walking it out. Their action was to charge in and take what he was giving to them.
There are examples too numerous to list of people who experienced Process with God. I didn't even touch on Job or David. Lest we forget his own son, Jesus, and the process that was. From birth to age 33 was a process of building the man before he even began any ministry. And the process of atonement for sin? Really, if God did that with Jesus, how can we expect anything easier when we're so much more unholy?
All these people were righteous, holy, chosen people. And they all had to experience Process.
God is always In Process. As long as we live and breathe, God will bring us through cycles of process to grow our faith, to enrich our love, to build our character, to bring us to a place of action.
Whatever process God has you in right now, today, in this moment -- there is purpose for it. It's not happenstance. It's not neglect. It's not disdain, anger, punishment or malice.
It just is.
It is because that's what God does. He does process. He loves you too much not to.
And as for me, my hair grew out and I regained my mom's trust. And it was years before I went alone for another haircut.