I tend to underestimate how long anything will take.
This tendency of mine has come up a few times in the past month as my family has moved across town. We moved on a Sunday and I expected us to sleep in our beds the first night, but the beds weren’t even in the house by dark. I thought the painters and other workers would be long gone, but there are still trucks and trailers stopping by each day. I regularly ask, “Why are we still working on this bathroom?” and “How do we still have stuff at the old house?” I’m not trying to be critical; I’m truly surprised that things don’t happen overnight.
When I recently asked my husband how long he thought getting situated at our new house would take, his response was very matter of fact and “on brand” for Bryan. “It will probably take as long as it takes,” he said.
This reply was both correct and irritating. I didn’t love it. So, I decided last week to pray for more patience.
As I was praying, I remembered a certain kind of cactus that I saw on a hike in Arizona last year. It’s called a saguaro cactus and it only grows in a few places in the world; it’s the kind that towers way above you with arms reaching out and up. Our guide told us that this kind of cactus can live to be two hundred years old and grow up to forty feet tall. You can determine the age of a saguaro by noting whether it has arms or not. These kinds of cactus grow very slowly and vertically for at least seventy-five years before they start growing arms. For seventy-five years, these cactus work on getting strong enough to be able to support arms.
My first thought was, “Who has that kind of time?” It turns out that saguaro cactus have exactly that kind of time. It’s how they were designed to grow.
Seventy-five years is a long time to solely focus on rooting and strengthening, but its necessary for the trunk to be able to support heavy arms that store water. There’s no value in rushing the process.
While I don’t have that kind of time, I do have the time to be more cautious about top-loading myself in order to avoid crashing over. I can remind myself that a bunch of branches isn’t necessarily better. Growing isn’t a race.
Lately, I’ve been practicing giving myself more time to become grounded. If I’m not so frantic to mark things off my list, I can be more patient in general. So many people and things in my life would benefit from me just giving them some time. This includes, but isn’t limited to, my family, our new house, the vaccine manufacturers, the Biden administration and whoever is in charge of the reopening of America by summer.
I want it all fixed yesterday, but as Bryan says, these things will take as long as they will take. I’m realizing that something necessary is often happening just below the surface, even if I can’t see it. Maybe the really important, but invisible, work of strengthening is what makes any growth sustainable. Then, when they have taken all the time that they need, the arms will grow out and up towards the heavens. The arms will be sturdy and they will hold.