In high school we student-directed a play…or a series of vignettes…called “It’s all in the Timing.” It was a theatre of the absurd script, which is fascinating to watch and insanely difficult to master as a director and an actor. The dialogue is fraught with comedic opportunity, but without a solid handle on the timing, everything just seems…well…absurd. Thankfully, our high school actors and actresses were up to the challenge, and we were successful at a comedic night of dinner theatre.
No, that play doesn’t have anything to do with bears. Well, it does a little.
Apropos of nothing this morning, scenes from that play popped into my head. It puzzled me at first, for I hadn’t thought of that in years (probably since we put it on five years ago). But not long after those hilarious lines floated through my head, another, not so hilarious line floated through.
Everything in life is all in the timing.
Everything. Think about it: how many friendships do you have, or have you had, that started simply because the two of you were in the same place at the same time? Imagine your life if you hadn’t mistaken that person for someone else, or walked into their house for a party, or sat down with them (strangers, at that time) for lunch because you didn’t want to eat alone? What if you didn’t sit next to that person in that stupid college class? Never got up the nerve to ask that person to dance? Chickened out of going to that conference? Chickened out of asking someone to dinner or a party?
It isn’t just friendships or relationships that rely on the timing: it’s jobs, college classes, networking opportunities, adventures, trust-building opportunities…timing is ineverything and is everything.
Without it, we’re all pretty absurd.
But the perfect timing is nothing without the decision to accept it. We get opportunities all the time; we just have to decide whether or not to act upon them. In one of the vignettes, a 5 minute exchange between 2 people sitting at a café happens over and over and over and over. Each time a bell rings, the scene starts over, but with different—or slightly different—outcomes. The man sees a pretty woman, balks, runs off. Bell. The man is shy, sees the woman reading, makes one comment, sheepishly shuffles off. Bell. The man gets a little more confident, maybe makes two comments, is shot down, and leaves. Bell. They finally have a short conversation. Bell. They have a longer conversation, it goes well. Bell. He sees her reading, strikes up charming conversation, she finally puts down her book, they really talk. They decide to meet and talk again. Bell.
The bell is like a do-over button. Sometimes he hits it, sometimes she does. Eventually, both of them see the perfect timing and take it. This takes many missed opportunities first.
Sometimes I wish we had that bell: so we could ring it and return to a missed opportunity. We don’t.
In a recent sermon by the pastor at Princeton UMC, I was reminded of this again. Sometimes you have opportunities, choices, open doors, challenges placed in front of you: like Abram when God told him to leave Ur for a land that He would show him. In Genesis, God told Abram he would make of him a great nation if he left his homeland and followed God’s directions to a new home. Abram said: okay deal. Flash forward to Hebrews, Abraham (the –ha was added to change his name from meaning “exalted father,” to “father of many”) has the biggest chunk of the “hall of faith.” Abraham, because he answered God’s call, became the father of many nations: the Jews, Muslims, and Christians. He became the base of the three largest religions of our time. He answered the call when it was set in front of him; he saw the timing and took it.
By the way, Abram wasn’t told where he was going…until well after he left. Seeing the timing and taking it isn’t always easy or transparent. The “right timing” doesn’t always mean the “I can see my life’s path clearly now-timing.” Sometimes it looks like “I know it’s time for me to move, so I’ll pack, but I don’t know where I’m going-timing.” Sometimes it’s as simple as an unsettled feeling in your stomach, a lack of peace within your soul. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow. Leaving your homeland, your family (blood or friends), your community, your habits, your desires, your own selfish hopes…these are all difficult things to leave and wander off into the unknown.
But I have a stubborn spirit that doesn’t like being told what to do, or being told to move without having a destination. I prefer, often, to make my own timing. Heartbreak, rejection, and simple “no’s” witness how well that has worked. I know how it feels now, to see my forced timing and bulldoze my way through it vs. the divine opportunities placed in front of me for me to take.
I have a choice: I can follow myself, my own wills and plans, that deep-seated, carnal voice inside urging me to do and take what I want, when I want. OR. I can follow the God I claim to believe in, that still, small, inexplicable voice urging me to accept the challenge, to step out into the unknown, to trust that it’s all in the timing…all in His timing. I know which one is right-off more appealing. I know how to shut off the logic, the quiet unrest, and keep going because I like it. But I also know how that can (and has) turned around to bite me. I know what my religion would tell me is smarter: he’s a sovereign God, he has it under control, has your best in mind. I also know what that perfect peace feels like (even in the midst of pain).
And I know all too well how that war within me feels.
How do I know which side to listen to? What opportunities are in front of me? Which ones do I fight for? Which ones do I let happen, or let slide past? Where am I going? How do I know when I get there that I’m in the right place? What if there’s something potentially really awesome happening in a place I might be leaving? What if I don’t want to go somewhere new, what if I like where I am? What if I’m settling…what if I’m not? What am I looking at, really? What if where I’m going isn’t as cool as where I am? What if I have to leave all my community? What if they don’t want me to leave? What if it’s dangerous? What if I fail…or succeed?
I can’t pretend to imagine if those were the questions racing through Abram’s mind as they race through mine. A step of faith is hard no matter which way you slice it. But I know what thought Abram’s mind landed on; it’s the same one mine did.
I will go. I have seen my ways and I have seen the ways of the LORD; His are wiser and much better in the long run than mine will ever be. I can’t deny that it seems silly—turning down seemingly good opportunities or holding out for others or walking off into nothing hoping for guidance—but I cannot shake it. I must be faithful to the God with whom I stand and to whom I cling. Everything is in His timing anyway: His perfect timing.