So I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the LORD my God,
just as he instructed my father that I should do. For the LORD told him,
‘Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name.’
1 Kings 5:5 NLT
There have been times in my life during which it seems like nothing grows a whole lot. It feels quite a bit like stagnancy. I get frustrated and try all kinds of different things to shake up the elements that I perceive need change, but sometimes that makes things worse. I end up arguing with myself about which is worse: to persevere even though the issue won’t budge or to let go and wait on God’s timing.
I was talking to a friend of mine about this topic and she told me about something she learned about the life of an Arborvitae tree. She recently bought and planted a number of them in her yard and was advised by the staff where she bought them to remember the key is success is in three simple words: sleep, creep, and leap. The first year after you plant an arborvitae, they “sleep”. Most of their growth happens where you cannot see it so you would think they are doing nothing more than sleeping. The second year, they “creep,” which refers to their roots slowly spreading out deeper and wider underground. Finally, the third year they “leap.” They grow more than it even seems possible. She challenged me to consider the idea that maybe what I am calling “stagnancy” might actually be sleeping or creeping. What if there is actually quite a bit going on, just not where I can see it?
In 1 Kings, it is very apparent that Solomon has had his request for wisdom granted by God. It says that his wisdom, knowledge and understanding were too vast to even be measured (1 Kings 4:29). He had organized the entire government into specifically delegated tasks, departments and responsibilities. His next big responsibility was to build a Temple. His father, David, had wanted to build a temple for God to dwell in, but God had told him no. (In 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 we see that the reason is because God wanted his house of prayer built by a peacemaker, not a warrior.)
David may have felt that weight of that “no” as stagnancy. God was quick to reassure David, however, with a promise in 2 Samuel 7:12-18.
For when you die, I will raise up one of your descendants, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house – a temple – for my name. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12)
That sounds like a “sleep” phase to me. God is telling David to wait; roots are appearing and beginning to lace themselves into the ground. Then, David and Bathsheba happened and it appeared as though all was lost, yet from that relationship was born Solomon. That is when God allowed the roots of his promise to “creep” deeper and deeper into His will and prophecy. Finally, the leap occurs in 1 Kings 5:5 when Solomon proudly states:
You know that my father, David, was not able to build a Temple to honor the name of the LORD his God because of the many wars he waged with surrounding nations. He could not build until the LORD gave him victory over all his enemies. But now the LORD my God has given me peace on every side, and I have no enemies and all is well. So, I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the LORD my God, just as he instructed my father that I should do. For the LORD told him, ‘Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name.’ (1 Kings 5:3-5)
What an amazing Arborvitae outcome! God used David to lay the foundation of proper, deep roots for God’s will and his son, born out of struggle, lived out the promised leap. It was not stagnancy at all. God was working on the inside where human eyes cannot see. Sometimes, I struggle to see the inside even when it’s my own inside I’m dealing with. But God knows exactly how long each period of growth needs to be and he has promised to complete the good work he began in me.
Challenge: The next time I am struggling with a feeling of frustration with a perceived lack of progress, I will remember that FIRST comes sleep, THEN creep, and someday there will be a leap.
Dear Lord, I will wait on you. Today, I will be still and know that you are God. Let me be content to be transformed by you from the inside out and in your timing. Forgive me for rushing to frustration rather than trusting you. Amen.