Thursday, September 15, 2016

waiting, salvation, and the beauty of blooming late in life

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
-John 2:1-11


“Hey, buddy, time to wake up. We have an early orthodontist appointment,” I rubbed his back and he pulled the covers up over his head.


After a llttle more encouragement, he reluctantly joined other kids, who were already up reading books in little nests of pillows in the game room.
I went to get ready.


“Twenty minutes, you guys!” I shouted upstairs ten minutes later.


MOM! I can’t find my stinkin’ shoes!” a body ran through the house with arms flailing. (Given the general odor of my boys’ rooms, I think he meant stinky shoes.)


“When are we leaving?” another asked from inside the pantry. Did he have time for another breakfast? Could I fix him toast? How many tasks can we squeeze into the time we have left?


“We were supposed to leave four minutes ago,” I said, my purse on my arm and keys in my hand. I’m just here, waiting.


Waiting and being late have become my specialties in life.


Later I sat in the waiting room at the orthodontist. From the ceiling above, DJs on the radio talked about September 11, 2001. They told the stories of all the people who were late to their jobs in the towers on that awful morning. Missed taxis, cars that wouldn’t start, children who dawdled, donuts that needed to be bought- these ordinary little problems saved their lives.


I wondered, can being late because of the messiness of life really save us?


Here on the radio is proof that being late is not always the worst thing. It can even be the best thing. I’m only beginning to see how late I am arriving to many parts of life.

The list of things I wish I had done in my twenties is a mile long. The list of lessons I wish I had figured out in my thirties is even longer. But I didn't know my heart longed for adventure, to create a new space to rest my head that had never been built before. I was too busy trying to cram myself into the place I had already found back then.


I was a late bloomer long after I should have already figured out who I wanted to be. I’m forty years old and only getting started at life. I know I’m not alone.


In a world where the messages about success and failure get awfully tied to what we do instead of who we are, we can forget that our ability to achieve some kind of greatness is less important than making space for God’s love to set us free and send us out.


There has never been a useless person or a meaningless season since the beginning of all things. Some of us are surprised to find the weak wine of our youth has run out. What were we thinking? How did we miss our chance? We’re here in the middle years, everyone is looking at us, and we’re wondering what we could possibly do to salvage the party. How many tasks can we squeeze into the time we have left?


We’re awfully late. We were supposed to be done and out of here four minutes ago, four years ago, four failures ago. But here we are, waiting with purse on shoulder and keys in hand. We’re waiting for the seemingly ordinary contents of our souls to be made into something extraordinary.


But we still can’t find our stinkin’ shoes.


At first glance, some people seem to be right on time for who they want to be. Out there in the world we see the flash of brilliance of a prodigy, the steady steps of the faithful soldier, and the free-spirited prodigals who are still off in other lands. They don’t seem to be waiting for anything at all. They look full of life and celebration.


I wonder, though, if there’s anything more in any of us than some simple water. Prodigies, Soldiers, Prodigals, and Late Bloomers look an awful lot alike lined up next to a holy God. No one has quite enough to measure up on their own. Everyone’s song seems a bit off-key compared with His endless anthem, our lights are a little cloudy in the shadow of His mighty hand.


Who among us is really capable of bearing the touch of an eternal God, unless He is lifting us and pouring us out as a miraculous sign of His glory?


Could it be we were all created to hold the late wine? We are all becoming the later-in-life, past-your-prime, better wine together. Old age will slow us down eventually, wilting the strength of our minds and bodies. Our shared destiny is to toast one another with the wine of a far-off home. We are meant to seek the taste of something that inspires poets to write sonnets and causes hearts to swoon for sacrifice. We crave the kind of wine that only a Holy God can make, full of a ripeness the world can’t manufacture.


Jesus has saved the best for last. He has saved his glorious reward for all who will follow Him to the very end. He has saved it for you and for me and for all who will believe in Him.

All we have to do is wait a little longer.

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