James reminds us where our true direction comes from: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-17; 5:7-11 NRSV).
This scripture puts things in perspective for me. Comparing myself to, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” is a sobering thought. I am so self-centered. I play at being God, but when the sun comes up I am gone like the morning mist. What is there that I can really control? What is there in my life that is worth worrying about or being afraid of?
I get caught up in other people’s self-centeredness. As others try to control I look at their example and mimic them. I feel that I have to compete with what natural man holds high. If I am successful in this blind ambition according to man’s measure, what have I got? The next thing that happens is frustration in trying to keep up. Worry and fear set in. I do dumb things to try to maintain my position. I begin to lose my identity and self-esteem.
If the “mist” metaphor is not convincing enough, I only need to go to Genesis 3:19 (NRSV) where I find the words: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I am like a tumbleweed that has broken away from its roots and is driven by the wind. Can the tumbleweed control the land that it is being blown over?
In the letter of James he tells us to, “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient.” It’s not that I should be a do-nothing, sitting and waiting.
The farmer tills the soil and plants and sows, but waits for that which is out of his control to bring the gentle rains. The Lord is my source. He will guide me. I must prepare the ground so that He can work His magic with me. If the Lord wishes, I will do these things.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.