There is a story that takes place during the Hebrews’ travels from Egypt to Canaan. As they wandered in the desert the tribes ran short of water and began nagging Moses to find some for them. God told Moses he’d find water if he struck a certain rock with his staff. Moses did as God told him but, unable to imagine water gushing from a rock, he hit the stone twice rather than once as God had directed. God punished Moses for his lack of faith by allowing him to see but never enter the Promised Land.
Christian history is full of stories about people who did their best to believe in the world God promises but found it a difficult tale to accept. While most never gave up entirely on the idea, they often found themselves hitting their own rock two and even three times.
We can easily understand how Christians in the decades immediately following Jesus’ Ascension expected the world’s immediate transformation. They assumed that God’s future would come to pass as soon as he enforced his will on creation. What seemed his pointless delay precipitated a crisis of faith for them. Only gradually have we come to understand that God’s will generally evolves with one phase setting the stage for the next. We still struggle to find comfort in the idea that the Creator doesn’t act like a dictator with creation.
Just as no form of life foresees the subsequent form it will evolve into, we can’t see how the Spirit of God is leading us into the future. We’re only capable of living the way of Jesus as closely as possible. We love, we forgive, we share, we build and, most importantly, we never give up. That’s the role each of us inhabits.
As much as we might like to know the wheres, whens and hows of the Reign of God, we don’t and we can’t. Not even Jesus could. That is one of the hardest parts of taking up our crosses and following him.