By Ellen Nimmo
“All in God’s timing,” they say.
Don’t you sometimes wish you could tell them to go fly a kite?
I mean, sure, they mean well. It’s supposed to bring comfort. A mantra, an expression, a platitude, a truth like that. Right? It’s supposed to remind us of the eternal perspective. Of the incomparable wisdom of a Creator God. Of the perfect plans He has for His creation, His kingdom, us. But sometimes it just sounds like a salt shaker sprinkling its stinging innards onto a gash of hopes dashed.
Could be its just me, though I somehow doubt it.
Still. There’s a lot of good in that phrase. If you believe in an Almighty God I suppose. Whose purposes are full of redemption, full of reconciliation, full of radical love. A God whose vision is steady, whose mission is unwavering, whose power is unending. That’s a whole lot of good. Ain’t it? It means we can trust that we don’t see the whole picture, but God does. It means we can feel unsure and disappointed, but there’s hope to be found again, under the tent of His Sovereignty.
The life of Jesus had many of these “in God’s timing” moments. And surely every moment is such, not just here and there moments, but all of life. And there’s a lot of passages we could talk about here, related to God’s timing. There’s the child of Abraham and Sarah. Elijah and the fire from heaven. Esther. Joseph. Ruth and Naomi. Moses floating in a basket down the river and, in God’s timing, later parting the sea to free the enslaved nation of Israel. And on and on. But this week I’m thinking most about the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. It goes like this:
13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
Maybe I’m thinking about it most because it’s such a tender picture of Jesus. Here, as Jesus knowingly draws nearer and nearer to brutal crucifixion, the one he will experience on behalf of the disciples, for peoples in the decades and centuries to come, for me and for you, he humbles himself even further and washes the dirty feet of the disciples. Can it get more unexpected? Maybe, but I don’t know how. Of course, there’s a chance you’ve heard this story so many times it doesn’t strike you as completely wacky, in the best kind of way. That is headline making stuff: God of the Universe Washes Feet! Not only that, but he lets the onlookers (the disciples then and us now) know that we don’t really get what’s going on. Not now anyway. Not yet.
Amen to that!
Maybe you’re like me: I don’t get why all the things that happen, happen. I don’t get why the way that seems right or good or like excellent timing to me, doesn’t seem to fit the narrative God has in store. I’m often bewildered. Befuddled. Bemused. And as much as I’d like to have it all figured, to know what to expect and see God’s hand at work in seamless, tidy ways that makes sense to my mind, be-knowing my way into a life that’s predictable and benignly comfortable – that’s not how things play out. Not in my story, not in Biblical ones either. Certainly, there were moments where prophets of ancient days seemed to have a pretty good handle on the path God was directing, but many more hours and days where they didn’t know. They were left only to prayerfully trust. To seek good counsel. To obey. And wait well.
Do you know how often the Scriptures talk about waiting well? A ton. Like, lots and lots.
I kinda (really) hope you take a look at those verses I linked. I’m praying for it now actually.
Why? Because what comfort to the soul! What a booster-shot of peace in the midst of the unknown.
As the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet continues we see him say this:
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Whether things are trucking along just like you had hoped or expected or prayed for or whether things appear to be colossally crumbling, take heart! Yes, take courage, dear friends. The Son of Man came to seek the lost (Luke 19:10), to set things right in a world gone astray (Revelation 21:5), and is working all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). He also leaves us an example. To do as he did and, in our waiting, amidst the days where we awake unsure of what the future holds, wash feet. Wait well.
Today, I’ll be the one to say it and implore your ears not to hear some old cliché, but rather the mysterious majesty of the Divine Design: The recreation of Eden, a city on a hillside, a new heavens and a new earth, all being built by the Architect of Agape.
Truly, All in God’s timing.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ “