Taken from Tamara’s favorite devotional, Bread For the Resistance, by our friend Donna Barber. Copyright (c) 2019 by Donna Marie Barber. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Donna Barber is the co-founder of The Voices Project, an organization that influences culture through training and promoting leaders of color. She is also the director of Champions Academy, an initiative of the Portland Leadership Foundation that provides culturally responsible leadership development for student athletes.
And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me. Acts 26:14
Though conversion may be pinpointed to a moment, salvation is a process that continues over a lifetime. I am still being saved from old ways of thinking and behaving and am coming to new understandings, to new life.
Even the transition from death to life is sometimes progressive. Saul, though converted in a flash of light on the Damascus road, still had to travel from spiritual and physical blindness to sight. And Paul continued to grow and receive revelation throughout his life.
In Mark 8:22-25, Jesus is introduced to a blind man in Bethsaida who is looking for healing. The scripture says that the man asked Jesus to touch him but instead Jesus took him by the hand, led him out of town, put spit on his eyes, laid his hands on him, asked him a question, touched him again, and made him look up—only then did the man see clearly. Sometimes change is instantaneous. Most often, though, it’s a process.
In this journey of justice and faith, we find ourselves or meet people like us who are in this growth process called salvation. Our tendency is to grow impatient while mumbling, “When will I ever get this right?” or “Is she still doing that?” or “Will things ever change?” We want or expect Jesus to just touch us and be done with it: “Shazam! You’re healed!” But instead, Jesus is
walking us through a step-by-step process of deliverance that may be neither quick nor simple nor understood—but at the end, there is clarity and salvation. Perhaps salvation itself is more than a predetermined destination but rather the course you travel to get there. We are being shaped as much by the noes, delays, and slammed doors as we are by the triumphs and victories. Though our modern, microwave, instant message society conditions us to the immediate and instantaneous, God is not bound by time.
Whether our focus is individuals, systems, or ourselves, it is important to remember that the work of transitioning from death to life is the Lord’s, and the timetable is his and his alone. We prepare the soil, plant the seed, cover and water it, and wait. But the process of moving from seed to food, or from death to resurrection, is divine and cannot be rushed or manipulated by us, no matter how hard we work or how badly we want it.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Mary longed and worked for the healing of her brother Lazarus but the God-determined course of his recovery was through death and graveclothes before finally reaching the ultimate healing of resurrection.
Some of us have been praying for the healing of a friend, the salvation of a loved one, the change of a law, or the overturning of a policy. Occasionally we hear stories of charges that were suddenly dropped or tumors that inexplicably disappeared. But more often than not, we must walk through a lengthy trial, or fast and pray as a spouse moves through surgery then radiation and chemotherapy. Still, along the way, we hear Jesus whisper as he did to Martha in John 11:40: “Did I not say to you . . .”
We forget that time passed between the cross and the empty tomb, between “it is finished” and “all power is given to me.” We forget that we are working out this salvation with fear and trembling on a road that, while long and sometimes bumpy, nevertheless leads to wholeness and new life.
So, if it feels like it’s too late, or nothing is happening, or you are still stumbling around in the darkness, don’t give up. Choose to trust and wait a while longer. It could be your answer is already in the process. Or perhaps God is just making clay.