Timing is Critical

“Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.”

Proverbs 20:4 (NIV)

On the surface, this wise saying is about lazy people failing to take the opportunities they have to earn a living. The sluggard doesn’t get up and go to work during planting season–he’s too lazy. By the time he finally gets around to plowing his land and planting his crop, he’s behind the curve. When harvest comes, his crops have yielded nothing because they haven’t had the right growing season. The lesson: Don’t be lazy! When it’s time to work, go out and work so that you can earn a living. Don’t wait around and procrastinate until the opportunity passes you by.

I think that’s a good word for all of us (especially me, since I am by nature a professional procrastinator and it takes a lot of oomph to overcome that). However, as I reflected on this verse and why it “wiggled” on the page I was reading, I realized there was more here than just a warning against procrastination–at least for me. 

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know much about farming, even though I grew up in a small town where almost everyone was a farmer and I married into a farm family. My father-in-law and brothers-in-law are incredible farmers, and being in their family I have learned that farming is a lot more scientific than putting seeds in the ground and waiting for them to grow. Every spring, I ask my father-in-law when they will start planting, and his answer is different every year. It depends on the weather, the ground moisture, the soil conditions, and many other variables. Just like waiting too long to plant yields a poor harvest or no harvest, planting too soon has the same effect. The point is not to plant early or late, the point is to plant in season. For farmers, timing is critical to success.

The same is true for many things in life. Timing is important to success. Jumping the gun before you’re ready often leads to failure. Waiting too long out of fear or laziness often leads to miss opportunities. My prayer for the week is that God will give us the wisdom to know when the season is right, when the opportunity is ripe, and when the timing is good.

Alignment

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).

Recently our church did a painting event, where an artist walked us step-by-step through how to paint a Christmas tree with a cross as its trunk. I was helping my six-year-old son, Jack. We could see what the goal was for our painting, yet as we painted the artist often said, “If you like this, do this. If you want to do something else, go ahead and put your own style into it.” As we painted, Jack expressed his own interests and desires in what his painting should look like, and when I walked around the room, I saw many, many different Christmas trees with crosses for trunks. The variety was incredible, and yet the purpose of the artwork was the same every time.

This is a beautiful picture (no pun intended) of God’s purpose in our lives. He doesn’t just dictate his will to mindless slaves to obey or die. He invites us into the process. He created us with thoughts and emotions, dreams and aspirations. He is interested in what our hearts long for, and he makes space for us to express our own “style” as we go along the way. God works with us to accomplish his purpose, and that is profoundly amazing.

Yet, we must remember that ultimately, it is God’s purpose that prevails. If our plans go against his purpose, we will surely be frustrated. As I was reading and praying through Proverbs 19, the Lord brought verse 21 to my attention. I distinctly sensed him say to me, I want your plans to align with MY purpose. I think when that happens, we experience the fullest sense of meaning, freedom, and joy. We are painting with our Father, who is showing us the purpose while allowing us to be who he created us to be in the process.

This brings to mind Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). May the Lord forgive me the times when my plans have not aligned with his purpose!

My prayer for this week is that our hearts will sync with God’s heart, and we will find the sheer delight of aligning our plans with his purpose.

Shhhh!

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)

Have you ever known someone who loved to hear the sound of their own voice? Or a person who never really seemed to listen, but always cut you off with their own story or advice? How about someone who always seemed to know exactly how you felt and what you were going through, even though they never took the time to actually understand your situation?

I’ve known many, many people like that in my life. And, if I’m honest, there are times when I’ve been one of those people! If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such a person, you can testify to the truth of Proverbs 18:2. A person who doesn’t really care about you, but just wants to hear himself wax eloquently, shows himself for a fool. He may think he’s wowing you with his wisdom and brilliance when in reality he’s making a donkey of himself because he won’t shut up.

Everyone struggles with pride in one way or another. All of us have opinions, but we need to remember that sometimes our opinions don’t matter. Sometimes what someone needs is our attention, not our advice. Our care, not our solutions. Our prayer, not our opinions. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of being understood, and being loved in the understanding.

My prayer for the week is that God will give us each an opportunity to listen, and that he will nudge us through the Holy Spirit when we need to stop talking and start understanding.