I was able to attend a college orchestra concert tonight. After all the performers were in place and the stage was set, the audience became quiet as we waited for the music to begin.
There was only one problem. The conductor didn't come out.
At first, I thought the few seconds of delay might be for dramatic effect, but time ticked by. Someone coughed loudly. People were looking around, shuffling in seats. Someone coughed again. Soft murmurs and low speculative chatter. The percussionists appeared to go backstage to look. I thought, "This isn't planned. Something isn't right." My friend and I exchanged glances.
Everyone waited for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably closer to 2. Finally, the conductor emerged and quickly took her post in front of the group with her hands poised to conduct the first note. Not a word was spoken about the strange delay.
I wondered where she had been. Why had she, a respected professional, offered no explanation? What could have caused her to delay her group from beginning on time? What more than an emergency could have held her back?
Later, after the concert was over, it was revealed that she had been ready all along. The delay was because one of the orchestra members did not have a mute and could not perform any of the pieces without it. Until the mute was retrieved, the concert couldn't start.
To everyone in the audience, the conductor appeared to be at fault. However, she had mercifully covered for an unprepared member of the group.
On the way home, I started thinking about how I perceive delays in my own circumstances. My go-to person to confront and blame is God. He's the leader after all, and if he was ready to come out and make things right in this world (and in my life), then there should be no hold up. What, after all, could keep him from acting immediately when the stage appears to be set for his intervention and deliverance?
When I think this way, I fail to consider that God considers us all players in this world with him, and though he leads us, he will not force us all to be prepared for his coming. He mercifully waits, hoping that more people will come to faith in Jesus, that those of us who believe will forsake our earthly idols and begin to love him with all our hearts.
When he comes back, will you be prepared? Will you be longing for his appearing? Or are you sitting back, resting and backsliding because you think he's running late (or might never come at all)?
Be assured, the Messiah will return to earth suddenly and without warning. We are promised in scripture that we will be rewarded if we live spiritually prepared and ready for that day. In the meantime, it does me good to remember that sometimes God's delays are merciful, allowing just enough time for all the players in my life to become prepared - especially me.
I think about the valuable lessons God continues to teach me through my season of waiting, and although I want the circumstances removed right away, he uses them as tools to prepare me, to reshape me, to purify me. Tonight's experience at the concert was a reminder that He will indeed come to redeem my trials for his glory - in his merciful time.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9