This reflection was written for one of our supporting churches, Second Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. It was published as part of their Lenten devotional book, Into the Wild: Reflections for Lent.
O Lord, I have heard of your renown,
and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In our own time revive it;
in our own time make it known;
in wrath may you remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His glory covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
The brightness was like the sun;
rays came forth from his hand,
where his power lay hidden.
Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed close behind.
He stopped and shook the earth;
he looked and made the nations tremble.
The eternal mountains were shattered;
along his ancient pathways
the everlasting hills sank low.
I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction;
the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled.
Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
Or your anger against the rivers,
or your rage against the sea,
when you drove your horses,
your chariots to victory?
You brandished your naked bow,
sated were the arrows at your command. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw you, and writhed;
a torrent of water swept by;
the deep gave forth its voice.
The sun raised high its hands;
the moon stood still in its exalted place,
at the light of your arrows speeding by,
at the gleam of your flashing spear.
In fury you trod the earth,
in anger you trampled nations.
You came forth to save your people,
to save your anointed.
You crushed the head of the wicked house,
laying it bare from foundation to roof. Selah
You pierced with their own arrows the head of his warriors,
who came like a whirlwind to scatter us,
gloating as if ready to devour the poor who were in hiding.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the mighty waters.
-Habakuk 3:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version)
I recently moved from Memphis to South Africa to serve as a staff volunteer with Door of Hope. Within just a few days of arriving, the COO, David Allen, attempted to teach me the different definitions of the word “now.” In South Africa, now doesn’t mean right this second. In fact, that word doesn’t contain a sense of urgency at all. If you agree to get something done “just now” you are offering tackle it at some point when you get a chance. Need something a little sooner? Try the phrase “now-now.” It’s quicker than “just now” but actually means, “I’ll do that when I’m done with what I’m doing.” And what if you need something done immediately? There’s no now-word for that. Pick another phrase and hope for the best. I had been warned that time works differently in Africa and this vocabulary lesson was proof that I have a lot to learn about keeping time.
I wonder if the prophet, Habakkuk, is also struggling to keep time. In chapter 2 Habakkuk has taken a look at the world around him and made a long list of the brokenness he sees. Redemption is needed…now! In chapter 3 he urges God, “I have heard of your renown and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it, in our own time make it known.” Or as I imagine it, “I’ve heard of your awesome work. Can you do this again now-now or perhaps even right now? In fact, let’s forget the ‘nows’ altogether. Do this on my time please.”
I can identify with Habakkuk’s plea. Already I sense the urgency in the work being done here, at Door of Hope. There are toddlers who are getting older and need a space at the Play and Learn Center…now. There are permits that need to be obtained now so that building can continue at the Village. And there are currently 76 children in our care in need of forever families…now. It could be easy to get distracted and discouraged by all that needs to be done now, and yet somehow, every day, I am amazed at the patience and persistence displayed here. The Door of Hope family doesn’t get derailed by the not yet. They are hard at work tending to the present moment, caring for children in need of compassion, all the while praying, with Habakkuk, for God’s now to be revealed.
I wonder if we can learn a new way of keeping time from these prophets in our midst. May we all learn to pray with urgency like Habakkuk and the Psalmist, but may we never lose sight of the way God is at work in the ‘now,’ persistently making a way when there seems to be none.
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May God grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions now, now-now, just now, and in the days ahead. Amen. (based on Psalm 20:1, 4-5)