Slow Change

I have been thinking lately about how change and growth happen in us. It seems to me that the most far-reaching spiritual shifts and emotional realignments we experience take a long time. They might begin in an instant of inspiration or be initiated by the occurrence of a crisis, but even those transformations which begin dramatically develop slowly. And, that slow pace of change can frustrate us, perhaps even cause us to cooperate less than we might with the growth trying to emerge in us. When I get impatient with myself or with others because I think I am, or we are, moving far too slowly, I remember some cherished wisdom from the French priest and paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard was a visionary and a compelling writer.

During World War I, he served on the front lines of a dangerous battlefield. Shortly after leaving the battle, Teilhard wrote to his cousin:

Above all trust in the slow work of God
We are, quite naturally, impatient
in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
Something new;
And yet it is the law of all progress
That it is made by passing through
Some stages of instability--
And that it may be a very long time.

And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually
Let them grow, let them shape themselves,
Without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them, as though you could be today
What time (that is grace and circumstances
Acting on your own good will) will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
Gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
That His hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of
Feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.