A Jesuit priest and scientist named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote something about the slow work of God that I like very much.
He said:“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability — and that it may take a very long time…
“And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow…
“Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955)
De Chardin seems to be talking about the growth and development of an individual human being, a human “soul.” We do so easily become impatient with ourselves and our life situation. And we certainly can be impatient with the “slow progress,” apparent “no progress,” or even “reverse progress” in the people who impact our lives.
I think this also speaks to our common life: our communities, our churches, our country, our world. There is so much that is incomplete, not worked out, lacking progress, or apparently going backwards!
Am I able to “accept the anxiety of feeling myself (or someone in my life, or my world) in suspense and incomplete?” I need help with this. Why can’t I (or we, or they) get my (or our) act together?
As much as I wish it were not so, I am not in control of my own life and circumstances.
Even though parents rightly exert a great deal of influence upon their children, we are delusional to think we actually control them! As de Chardin notes, I can have a good will, good intentions, a good plan; but time and circumstances may not go “my” way.
And what social or political process in all of human history was ever anything but messy, compromised, and more or less corrupt? None that I’ve ever seen or heard of.
So what’s left to us? It is called grace, which is described by De Chardin in this simple invitation: “Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you.” Pentecost trying to tell us about this – that God’s invisible presence, the Holy Spirit, the guidance of Jesus, is working among us.
Meanwhile, may we trust God’s Spirit and work at loving our neighbors – all of them.
~ Dave Robinson
This article was originally posted in the Oracle Newsletter Summer 2018 edition. Other articles by Fr. Dave Robinson can be found here.