Miscalculating The Time
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24:32-33)
We have an annoying tendency to be overconfident about our ability to deal with complex situations or to gauge how much time we have left to accomplish major tasks, and the consequences for these miscalculations can range from minor to catastrophic. And that’s just in temporal matters – what about the potential impact in spiritual matters?
That’s the question that came to my mind almost 24 hours ago.
My family and I have recently made a major move from the suburbs of northern New Jersey to a small town in central West Virginia. There are quite a few reasons why we have embarked on this change, not the least of which is that my wife and I are looking to embrace a lifestyle that is more in harmony with Biblical principles. We have chosen to heed the counsel given us by God and His servants to bring up our children in an atmosphere that is more conducive to their spiritual development. We also want to move in a direction that enables us to be far more self sufficient for our daily needs than we have been in the past. And we want to maintain a pace that is more manageable than the typical rat race found in Corporate America today.
In making this move, we prayed and researched and planned for many months, and it was still harder and more complicated to move than we had anticipated. Nonetheless, I'd do it again in a heart beat. We have already begun to experience benefits that I would not willingly give up, and we have begun to learn some key lessons as well.
Yesterday evening, somewhere around 6pm, the whole family was outside cleaning up as part of our never ending unpacking activity (it’s been 4 weeks already!). The sun was shining brightly, and there was a nice, soft and cool breeze. Among other things, the boys were whacking weeds, I was clearing out the porch, and we were all stacking up boxes for the garbage (not counting the time we spent dodging some large spider that had gotten into the pile of folded cardboard). After a while, we noticed a small dark cloud a little bit north of us. My wife commented that it looked like the weather was going to change, but we all took a look at that cloud, noted its small size relative to the other clouds, and concluded that because it was a bit far off and not really headed our way, that we were fine.
Back to work we went.
No more than 5-10 minutes later, the wind made a rapid and significant shift and picked up intensity. Major intensity. Much of the sky also darkened. This got our attention.
The wind began to blow everything around, including the stacked cardboard and a large tarp I had laying on the ground. I actually had to run partway down one hill to catch and secure the tarp. We were all scrambling to grab this or that, and to get everything together so we could go inside. Our labor was much more difficult during this period, which lasted 15, maybe 20 minutes in duration. The wind was blowing all around, and we had to make fast decisions about what to do and where to go and how to secure everything. By now, the sky was pretty dark and foreboding, and rain seemed imminent. We labored as quickly as we could to get everything tied down, put away or covered.
Then, just as quickly as it had started up, the weather shifted back. The stormy clouds moved off in a different direction, and the sun shone again for a little while before finally setting over the tree line. We relaxed -- but only a little -- and continued working, with one eye on the sky. The whole incident felt a great deal longer than the 15-20 minutes it actually lasted.
At this point, a few key lessons began to take shape in my mind:
1. We need to be more attentive to weather conditions, and respectful of any changes we perceive.
2. We received – and ignored – an early warning that could have allowed us to complete our work with less stress and hassle.
3. We thought we had much more time before the weather would actually change. We misread the signs and totally miscalculated the time we had left, thinking ourselves safe when we really weren’t.
The good news is that the physical storm didn't actually materialize. The bad news is that we are prone to making similar mistakes in the spiritual realm, an that storm will most certainly materialize.
For over a hundred years, God has been telling His people that the country is where they should be making their base of operations. Yes, evangelism is most definitely needed in the cities. It is needed wherever people are, and plenty of them are in the cities. But, God's people need not be personally headquartered in the cities themselves in order to effectively work the cities.
The cities are killing us, physically and spiritually. All sorts of reasons are given for why so many youth are leaving our churches, and little do people realize that the mere influence of the cities is the biggest reason why many of our youth struggle with spiritual growth. For that matter, many of our older members struggle with spiritual growth for the same reasons. Like Lot, our tents are pitched towards Sodom, and one day, we will have to leave Sodom – under duress – only to find out that the vast majority of our children, youth and even adults, have elected to remain in Sodom.
Moving to the country is not something that can be done just on the spur of the moment. It takes time and a whole lot of planning. Our physical move to West Virginia involved lots of interesting twists and turns, which thankfully, we are not having to experience under duress. We received significant help from friends in NJ and WV, for which we are eternally grateful, and without which things would have been much harder and discouraging. And we’re not finished yet. There is still much to be done before we can have our own place and be truly situation as we feel God desires us to be.
There are severe economic problems coming upon the entire world, and while being in the country does not make one impervious to problems, on many levels, the hardships will undoubtedly be greater for those in the cities who are dependent on others for all their needs (food, water, power, transportation, etc) than for those in the country who are much more self sufficient. If you don’t believe me, just look at the chaos experienced in the major North Eastern US cities that were impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the freak snow storms in December 2010 and October 2011. What will happen when there are sustained problems that last months rather than days or weeks?
Not everyone sees things the same way, however. In talking to people about country living over the past ~2 years, I see three distinct groups of respondents:
- Group 1: Those who have started moving or are prepared to move rather quickly
- Group 2: Those who are contemplating moving, but are not quite ready to move or haven't quite decided how they will do it, or where they will go
- Group 3: Those who see no need to move until some major prophetic event occurs (if then).
It is of vital importance that God’s people find themselves in Group 1 as soon as possible, because moving to a country living lifestyle involves a lot of work and a lot of change, and it is not something you can just jump into with a moment’s notice.
Those who are in Group 2 had better hope that they do not miscalculate how much time they have to get ready, as we did yesterday, or they might find that their path to move is impaired, or that they have no destination to go to, or that they cannot carry all that they wanted/needed to carry due to the limited time.
Finally, those who are in Group 3 need to wake up, or they might find themselves like the five (5) foolish virgins on Matthew 25, or like Lot’s children and in-laws.
There is a reason why Jesus emphasized watching and waiting so very heavily, and it's not because we are good judges of time.
My family and I will be paying close attention to the weather in the future, but we will also give much more heed to our spiritual readiness. Yesterday was a wakeup call for us, and we intend to pay close attention to the lesson learned. We have already learned a lot from those who have pursued this course before us, and from our experiences of the past month, and we are thankful for how God has led and preserved us. (Our experiences are not the worst ones that we’ve heard!)
We encourage all others who are looking at, or contemplating the country living message to consider that they have less time than they think. Miscalculation will be unpleasant, to say the least. Watch and pray.
And accelerate your planning. You have less time to get ready than you think – and far more work to do than you anticipate. Watch and pray and plan. Your salvation is dependent upon it.