I don’t think of myself as a particularly impatient person, but neither do I like delays. For example, I don’t mind sitting in an airport people watching while I wait for my flight, but if the flight is delayed I get anxious. What if I miss my connecting flight? How about the person who will pick me up on the other end? I am throwing a monkey wrench into their plans and I hate to inconvenience them. In the same vein, I don’t mind sitting in a quiet doctor’s office perusing a variety of magazines that aren’t found in my home. I like getting the Sport’s Illustrated take on the upcoming football season, even though it is usually months after the fact. (Consider this my quiet plug for up-to-date reading material in waiting rooms.) But if the receptionist opens her sliding glass window to announce that the doctor has been called out on an emergency, I have to stifle a groan. Long emergency? Quick emergency? Sit and wait a bit longer? Reschedule?
Delays are unsettling. We aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Every situation is different, and so the response must vary. Sometimes there is no response. We just continue to wait.
That was the situation we were in with our church building project. Our beautiful piece of land had been purchased. Money designated for the project was waiting to be spent. Architects and contractors were lined up. And still the land sat quiet. There were delays.
The cause? Terrapene carolina, better known as the Eastern Box Turtle. It seems that one of these turtles had been spotted on or near our land and this brought our plans to a halt. While the box turtle is the most common turtle in the eastern part of the United States, they face an uncertain future. They are prone to being hit by cars as they attempt to cross roads. Sexual maturity is not reached until between seven and ten years, and while over her lifespan she may lay hundreds of eggs, only a few turtles will reach adulthood. As natural habitats are destroyed, the turtle is further endangered. Add to this the reality that people take them home to be used as pets and we see there is cause for concern.
And so at the behest of the state a biologist was hired to survey the land. Although a day of tramping around the land produced no evidence of a box turtle on our eight acres, it still seemed wise to the state of Massachusetts to set aside two acres of our land in the event turtles might one day want to settle there. This was done and those two acres will remain development free. Long live the box turtle!
But what did this mean for our building project? A delay at just the time we were most anxious to get started. The town could not approve our building plans until the turtle issue was resolved. There were months of drawing and redrawing the site plans as we negotiated with state agencies to secure their approval.
I was fretting about this delay, as well as others along the way, when I was reminded that the Israelites had faced a similar situation as they made plans to enter the Promised Land. They knew they would be encountering enemies as they advanced toward the Land, but they had God’s promise He would be with them all along the way. He even told them that He would send hornets into the land ahead of them that would be so irksome they would force the current occupants to move away.
I can imagine the excitement of the Israelites when they heard that first part of God’s message. But I wonder if they felt a bit deflated at the next words, “But I will not drive them out in a single year.” Well, why not? We want to get moving! “Because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”
It was God himself who engineered the delay behind their entrance to the Promised Land. He gave them several reasons: First, if the people already living there left too quickly, the land would become desolate. God wanted them to move into a land that was ready to support them. God was also concerned that wild animals would be a threat to Israel if the land was emptied of people too quickly. And last, he wanted their population to continue to increase to a size that would enable them to take possession of the land.
He had a timetable that was different from theirs. But His was the right one.
I have to believe that His timetable for our building project is also the right one, even though I don’t know the reason. I do know that as we waited we continued to raise much needed money for the construction and this was one positive outcome from the delay.
And then, finally, at just the right time everything fell into place; the land was cleared and construction began! It was an exciting fall watching the building begin to take shape. I have seen every step and it has been an education. I had no idea there were so many details to oversee!
As I said I don’t know why God allowed the delays, but I have seen His hand in the timing of the onset of construction; it didn’t start even a day later than He had planned. We had a number of rainy days this fall which kept the workers away from the job site. The ongoing concern was that if there was a significant snowfall before the building was enclosed, construction would be delayed until spring. I know that back in December, before we had seen any of the white stuff, people were praying for snow. Not me. I was asking the Lord to close the heavens until the roof was on. I watched the weather forecasts daily, gleeful when I continued to see no snow in the forecast. The building was finally enclosed shortly before Christmas.
Do you remember that here in western Massachusetts we had a green Christmas this year, with just a dusting of snow prior to December 26th? But since then the heavens have opened and we have so much of a winter wonderland that even snow lovers are crying “Enough!” I am delighted with God’s timing and love His sense of humor. No snow for those of us who were praying to that end, and now, at just the right time, plenty of snow for all the outdoor enthusiasts.
Turtles, state requirements, weather, finances. None of these are a problem for God. Although we have a general contractor overseeing the construction, we know who the real Boss is. I think we are in good hands.