LIVING AS APPRENTICES
I recently read a conversation between Richard Foster and Jon Bailey. They were speaking about Renovare, the organization Foster and others began twenty-five years ago to give leadership and direction for the future of spiritual formation as a movement. Bailey, the current chair of the Board of Trustees of Renovare, asked Foster what advice he would give as they look to the future of the organization.
Foster replied, “Four things: Never be in a hurry. Always take the long view. Build slowly. Relax: the work is God’s not ours.”
What great advice for anything we do in life! For example, one of my major reasons for retiring recently was the desire to write a book. Blogging taught me the discipline of regular writing. My spiritual formation journey has given me a message I want to share. So I decided to take on the challenge. I am nearly half-way through the writing, and I have learned the value of Foster’s four-point plan of action.
Yes, although writing must be done at a pace of sorts, that pace can not involve hurry. I usually get antsy when the end of a chapter is in sight. But I learned that when I push and hurry, I usually end up re-writing or deleting.
When I got bogged down on one particular chapter, I discovered how to take the long view:
- If I write a book, it gets published, and many people read it, I’m fine.
- If I write a book and it isn’t published, I’m fine.
- If I write a book and no one reads it, I’m fine.
- If I write a book and it is widely booed, I’m fine.
- If I take all this time to write this book instead of something else, I’m still fine – and probably wiser.
Recently a friend commented on how far I have gotten on the book in less than three months. She wrote, “I can’t believe you are so far already! Whew, isn’t that record time for a book?” I doubt it is “record time” but, yes, it usually takes a very long time to write a book. For me what takes the most time is the thinking, not the writing. And I’ve been thinking about these things for a dozen years or more. So maybe it’s a record for the longest time it takes to write a book! Records aside, doing something of value requires “building slowly.”
Finally and most importantly, everything we do happens through God working in us. We need to take God more seriously and our own schedules and passion less seriously. I learned this during the time I was stuck on a chapter. It seemed so hopeless I had almost decided to give up on this train of thought and move on to another section of the book. I did give up on the writing for the day and sat down in my recliner to read a novel.
Two hours later, I put the book down, fully satisfied with my vicarious journey with those memorable characters and their moving story. I sat content for a while, not thinking about anything in particular. Then my thoughts turned to the hopeless task of the chapter I still had to write. I sat in silence again. Suddenly I had a thought . . . and then another and another. I grabbed a scrap of paper and began taking dictation. In fifteen minutes I had more than enough ideas to finish the chapter. I relaxed and the Holy Spirit did the work.
Take your time. Look toward long-term results, not instant gratification. Start at the beginning and be satisfied with small steps. And let go and let God be in charge. This is a good building plan for any endeavor – including creating a relationship with God.