by Mark Batterson
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
A hundred years ago, a pair of English ornithologists took birds from their mother’s nest on the island of Skokholm off the coast of Wales. They tagged those birds and transported them to various far-off places, then released them to see whether the birds could find their way home to Wales.
One of those birds was released in Venice. Despite the tremendous distance (about 1,000 miles) and despite the fact that this species wasn’t native to the region, the bird found its way back home by a path it had never flown — in just over 14 days!
That experiment was repeated with even greater distances.
Two birds were transported by train in a closed box to London, then flown by airplane to Boston. Only one of the two survived that trip. The lone surviving bird flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and found its way back to its mother’s nest in 12 days and 12 hours!
Pretty impressive, right? Even ornithologists are amazed by this inbuilt capacity called the homing instinct. It’s the inherent ability to find their way home across great distances, despite unfamiliar terrain.
There’s a similar instinct hardwired into the human soul — the longing to be blessed by God. In the words of Saint Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal called it the “God-shaped hole.” Pope Francis called it “nostalgia for God.”
Yet despite our innate nature to long for God’s blessings, they don’t always come in our timing.
In 1996, my wife and I experienced this “longing for God” when we inherited a core group of 19 people and started a church. There was nothing easy about those early years. It took us three years to become self-supporting. And five to grow to 250 people. It wasn’t quick. It wasn’t easy. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way! In hindsight, I call those first five years of church planting a grace period.
In law, a grace period is a period of time when a particular rule does not apply. Spiritually speaking, a grace period is when God doesn’t give you what you want when you want it. Why? Because you aren’t ready for it. That’s how blessings backfire!
What I learned during those early years of church planting is that God needed to grow me — before He could grow our church. We know God won’t allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Well, God won’t bless us beyond our level of spiritual maturity either. He loves us all far too much to do that. God’s blessings are perfectly sequenced, and that requires great patience on our part. But in that process, we’re conformed to the image of Christ.
We’re living in a grace period, every one of us! Certainly, there are blessings we’ve already received, and we’re eternally grateful. But isn’t it awe-inspiring to know God is preparing blessings for you — and preparing you for blessings? And, I might add, He’s preparing blessings beyond your ability to ask or imagine!
As 2 Corinthians 9:8 reminds us, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
We cannot reach the full measure of our potential or find the full measure of meaning in life without God. We bear His image. We come from His “nest.” He’s the one who blessed us from the beginning.
So, count your blessings. Flip your blessings by blessing others. Repeat … as often as possible! And if you’re experiencing a grace period right now, may you grow in longing to see God’s transformation in you — because that’s the greatest blessing of all.
Lord, thank You for preparing blessings for me even now. Thank You for creating me to seek You. I pray for patience in the “grace periods” of life — and a deeper longing to be transformed into Your image. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.