Though God certainly has a plan that ultimately leads to the complete fulfillment of his purposes, the working out of that plan in the daily lives of His people reveals that He is just as interested in the process as He is in the end product. After all, it is in the process of life that our characters are forged and our relationship with Jesus is established.
I tend to be a goal-oriented person. When I make a quilt, for instance, I am so eager to get the thing finished that I have been known to skimp and hurry through the process. I learned early however that failure to pay attention to the details of the process creates an end product that I cannot be proud of! So I have been learning the patience of not getting in a hurry to finish but taking time to do it right — and God has given me a friend to teach me.
Rae is just the opposite of me in her natural focus. She enjoys the process. She is careful and precise with her cutting. Her seams are a persnickety 1/4 inch. Her intersections and points are exact. When she has to sew across a diagonal she doesn’t just wing it, she takes time to draw the seam line with pencil and ruler. And guess what! Her final product is always exquisite!
Recently, Rae and Bobbie (another friend), and I made a quilt together. Rae picked out the pattern (Pause and reflect on that!). Rae did most of the piecing while Bobbie and I learned a lot from watching her. In fact, watching her and seeing her end product has changed the way I make quilts. I have seen that Rae pieces a quilt the way God forges my character: He is not in a hurry and He is meticulous about the small details!
In Matthew 14:22-34, Jesus commands his disciples to get in the boat and row to the other side. He has just fed a crowd of over 5,000 from 5 little loaves and 2 fish. The disciples were tired from serving that miraculous meal to all those people, so Jesus sends them ahead to the other side of the lake while he stays to disburse the crowd. As evening comes, a strong wind springs up on the lake and the disciples had to strain to row against the wind. They strain and strain until about 4 in the morning —will they never get there? — when they look up and see Jesus walking toward them on the water! They can’t believe their eyes! It must be a ghost! But Jesus speaks to them and their fear is calmed. It really is Jesus and He really is walking on the water! Bold Peter wants to walk on the water too, and — what a miracle!— Jesus enables him to do it! Peter’s sudden doubt causes him to sink, but HE WALKED ON WATER even if only a few steps. And Jesus was right there to lift him out of the water when he fell.
Did Jesus want them to get to the other side? Oh yes! Jesus had a plan that we see worked out as we read on in the book. But the process of getting to the other side was not wasted on the disciples either. On the journey, they experienced difficulty that tested their strength and endurance, and they saw that Jesus had supernatural power to overcome what their human strength could not. Not only that but Jesus demonstrated through Peter that the disciples had access to that same supernatural power in their own lives! In addition, Jesus was there to rescue them when they didn’t do things just right. When the disciples got to the other side of the lake they were changed. Their faith and vision had increased dramatically.
God is not intimidated by the many things in my soul that need to change. He knows that His power is greater than all my sin. He is not impatient with my desire to compromise and my fondness for denial. He cuts and trims with precision and thoroughness and He connects the pieces of the quilt of our lives with exactitude. He is faithful to omit or overlook nothing, and He never wastes anything! His plan for my life involves daily (and long-term) processes that test my strength and my faith, but it is in the process that my trust in Him becomes strong. “Be patient and trust Me in this process,” He tells me. “The end product I have planned is eternal.”