Order Disorder Reorder Part 3: Reorder

Day 6 of 7 • This day’s reading


Right On Time

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick, he delayed going to him. When he finally did go, it appeared to be too late—Lazarus had already died. “If you had come sooner, things would be different.” Lazarus’s loved ones said to Jesus.

How many times have I felt the same way? "Where were you when I needed you? If only you'd showed up sooner..."

I remember the night I was curled up on my bathroom floor at 3 am, crying out to God, afraid my life had slipped through the hands of the one who'd always carried me through anything I faced, but who now seemed long gone.

My marriage was falling apart. The prospect of losing my family filled me with continual anxiety that kept me up at night and tied my heart up in ever tightening knots. The hope I’d always had that everything would be okay and that I was held by “the everlasting arms” (Deut 33:27) was crumbling. And so there I was, lying on my bathroom floor in the middle of the night in a pool of my own tears, feeling afraid and alone.

But then I heard something in my spirit—something like a steady and quiet voice that asked: “What if all of this is right on time? What if everything that’s happening is converging in your life at this moment to open you up and make available the kind of transformation you’ve been praying for?”

A peace washed over me as I began to hope that, here at the end of my rope and all out of moves, I might finally learn a new way to be me. If there was any hope for my future, it was in accepting the invitation to be changed that was being offered to me by the circumstances of my life.

Those words, “right on time,” forever transformed the way I see my circumstances. From that moment on, I couldn’t not see the pain and trouble in my life as opportunities—arriving right on time—to level me up and make me stronger. Our spirit is like a muscle that needs to be pushed to the brink of failure and sometimes beyond in order to grow and take new shape.

And I did grow, and I was changed.

I wish I could tie a pretty bow on top of this story and tell you that my marriage was saved, but unfortunately that’s not how things turned out (though I believe they could have). There is meaning even in that, though, as it reminds me that the truth isn't dependent on outcomes. As I see it, everything that led up to that painful night, crying for mercy on my bathroom floor, was tailor made and right on time to help me become more of the man I’d always wanted to be. I'm still becoming.

Richard Rohr suggests that suffering is one of the most dependable engines for transformation, echoing C.S. Lewis’ words: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” When pain, fear, anger, confusion, and failure pile up in our lives it brings us to a tipping point.

Ralph Waldo-Emerson says, “When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something,” which is why Paul could say he gloried in his sufferings because of what they produced in his life: perseverance, character, and hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Jesus wasn't caught off guard by the death of Lazarus and even told his disciples, “…it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it…Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:4-15 NIV)

I wonder if this potent story was in Peter Jackson's subconscious when he was making his Lord of The Rings films and had Gandalf The Grey say, “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

If God is the author and the finisher of our faith, and if he whose eye is on the sparrow is on us, we can have hope that even when all the evidence suggests otherwise, we are not abandoned or alone. Help arrives right on time—if not to save us from our circumstances, then maybe to save us from ourselves.