It’s the sevens that get me every time. As a child, I didn’t have any problem memorizing my multiplication facts, except when it came to the sevens. Even to this day, I have to really slow down and think about it when trying to multiply by seven.
Following the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples had their troubles with sevens as well. In Luke 24, two disciples were on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Somewhere along that seven-mile stretch, a stranger appeared and began to walk with them.
Inquiring about their discussion, the stranger was rebuked, “How slow are you? Are you the only one who doesn’t know about what happened to man known as Jesus of Nazareth? Some women have claimed that he is alive. We don’t know what to believe.”
Of course, the stranger walking with them was the risen Jesus, but they had not recognized him. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe,” he said to them.
Now, I’ve taken a few pastoral care classes in my seminary days. I’m pretty sure that no professor ever counseled me to call a church member “foolish” or “stupid” or “obtuse” when providing pastoral guidance.
These disciples weren’t intellectually or mentally stupid, however. Instead, they were struggling to make sense of their present circumstances in light of the larger biblical story. They failed to see how their present reality fit into God’s larger story. They had the individual facts, but those facts had not yet resulted in a cohesive belief or conviction. In other words, head-knowledge had not translated into heart-knowledge.
I know that there are many times that I struggle with such “slowness of heart” as well. Too often, I become so consumed by my present circumstances that I fail to see how they fit into God’s larger purpose and plan. I fail to see how God is using short-term trials and struggles to bring about long-term good.
Too often, I fail to see how the ornery friend is teaching me about patience. I ignore the fact that the unwelcome diagnosis is teaching me about trust and faith. I become blind to how hurtful comments directed my way are teaching me about forgiveness and grace. I am oblivious to ways that trials are producing perseverance and character.
I’m afraid that much of the angst we feel in our world today is a result of failing to see how our lives fit into God’s bigger plan. Sometimes, we’re so focused on adding the next seven — the next thing on the to do list — that we miss the patterns of God’s grace and mercy all around us.
This slowness of heart can only be cured when we reframe our lives in the light of God’s gracious story of salvation and freedom. Only when we see ourselves in the finished work of Christ, can our strivings cease and we can join God in the true seventh day’s rest.