There’s a widget on my iPhone home screen reminding me how fast time flies. Each day it displays pictures reminding me what memories I was making months and years before.
One month ago. My seven-month-old son gnawing on an Easter egg while his big sister hunts for eggs scattered through our yard.
One year ago. My pregnant belly trying to get comfortable on a lawn chair while my daughter draws with sidewalk chalk.
Three years ago. My newborn daughter, covered in baby acne, laying on the pillow in my lap while I binged Netflix on maternity leave.
Five years ago. Taking pictures in my graduation gown and masters hood, ready to graduate the next day and start my dream job the following week.
Swiping through these photos, the time appears to have traveled at the speed of light, especially compared to the unhurried speed of my day-to-day life now. I’m often impatient, evaluating each day on its own: meals prepared, diapers changed, words written, and too few hours of sleep. By these measurements, my days don’t seem to add up to much. I struggle with how these mundane moments are a part of the good work God has promised he prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10). Yet each day, each step, each photo snapped is a test of my faith—whether or not I believe God make something beautiful from these mundane moments of life.
I’m not the first to become impatient with God fulfilling his promises. From Genesis to Deuteronomy, Moses records the Israelites’ discontentment with the means and timeline of God’s plan. The Lord had promised he would deliver the Promised Land into their hands. Yet after all their complaining and rebellion—after four hundred years in Egypt and forty more in the wilderness—the Israelites were standing on the brink of the Jordan River, finally ready to take possession of their Promise Land.
After all the waiting, I’m sure they were eager to quickly conquer and then settle the good land God had given them, finally resting after their centuries of slavery and decades of wandering. Again, God had something else in mind, “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you” (Deuteronomy 7:22, emphasis added). While God guaranteed they would one day possess every nook and cranny of the Promised Land, he told Moses the progress would be slower than they had anticipated. The book of Joshua chronicles this “little by little” progress of reaching God’s promise:
A week marching around the city of Jericho before it fell.
Seven years to conquer the land.
Additional years for the land to be divided and settled.
Centuries more before they would truly have peace from their enemies.
During these long years, the Israelites were reminded that while God’s promises are sure, sometimes their fulfillment is more gradual than they had hoped. I often feel that way, too. I am reminded of my sin every day, and I wish God would free me from it. I feel the call to certain ministry efforts, but life with little children makes for a stuttering process. I desire my children to have a relationship with God, yet I watch my simple, repeated words of truth fly over my toddler’s head. It makes me wonder if my discipleship efforts are making any difference.
Yet the promised blessings of God don’t come all at once, because he knows our hearts are quick to forget the giver. Instead, he gives us the grace we need for each day so we stay humbly obedient and reliant on our good and generous Creator.
Day after day, Joshua rallied the Israelites—one more battle, one more city, one more portion of God’s promise. With each step of faithful obedience, they were closer to their “beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6), but they were also closer to their God, to the path of life where there is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). It was a slow process because the point of his promise to the Israelites was not only good land and fruitful offspring; it was a relationship with the God of creation, the God who covenanted himself with a people.
Five years ago, as I smiled for pictures in my graduation regalia, I couldn’t have imagined what my life would look like now—mothering two precious kids, pursuing my writing more intentionally, serving the women in my local church. While I didn’t always understand where he was taking me, the Lord ordained every curve, giving me sufficient grace for each day and wisdom for the next right step. I didn’t always know where he was leading me, and sometimes I stepped off the path into my own way. But he mercifully brought me back into his will, and I see the traces of his faithfulness sprinkled throughout the thousands of photos residing in the palm of my hand.
The blessings of God may come little by little. The process of sanctification and discipleship may seem painfully slow, but he has given me everything I need today for a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3). And day by day I am being transformed more into the image of his Son, awaiting the day I join him in his eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:11). Today, I choose to be content with where I am and the portion God has given me—believing five years from now I will look back at a little snapshot on my phone and say, “I could not have even imagined this then.”
Until then, I will put one foot in front of the other, one little step by little step of humble dependence and obedience. I will trust God is with me and is using each step to bring me closer to himself and to the fulfillment of his promises. And I pray—after a life of Spirit-empowered, everyday faithfulness—I will cross the Jordan into my own Promised Land, where there are “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).