Slow Growth – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Mark 4:26-29

This parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29) is found only in Mark’s Gospel – and its teaching is urgently needed in our speed-crazed world.

God created time, and hallowed time – and I think God likes us to spend time, and not try to beat it!

“I waited patiently upon the Lord: he stooped to me and heard my cry,” the Psalmist says.

“O tarry, and await the Lord’s pleasure.  Be strong, and he shall comfort your heart.  Wait patiently for the Lord.”

We ourselves are sometimes in too much of a hurry, spiritually, expecting God, at our bidding, to work miracles overnight.

And we often judge the progress of God’s kingdom by what we can see.  But so often the real growth happens unseen.

When I was a rector, in the last days of winter, I used to like planting hyacinth bulbs in bowls.  I’d plant the bulbs deep into the soil and then put the bowls into a dark cupboard under the stairs, and leave them there.  As the weeks went by I’d often go and look at the bowls to see if anything was happening.  Sometimes I was tempted to put my fingers in the soil and start digging around to see how the roots looked – but they don’t like that!  They like to be left patiently, to grow silently and mysteriously.

And then suddenly, one day – wow – there’s a green shoot poking through the soil – then another – and soon the lush beautiful flowers, and then the whole room is filled with that wonderful scent of spring.

Perhaps God likes to surprise us and delight us.  But we have to be patient.

I think in our own spiritual lives we are often in too much of a hurry.  We long for instant change and growth.  But it’s probably in our darkest moments, when nothing seems to be happening, and we feel most anxious: it is often then, silently and mysteriously, that God is at work – ready one day to surprise us and delight us.

This is true for ourselves, our family, our parish, our community.

I find these words, by the Jesuit theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, helpful:

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 take 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 on,

as though you could be today

what time

(that is to say, 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


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  1. Hope Hare on December 18, 2013 at 12:18

    Thank you for this Advent message on patience. It reminded me of my favorite lines from a Hopkins sonnet that is very familiar to you. After a bit of torment he writes:
    … call off thoughts awhile
    Elsewhere: leave comfort root-room; let joy size
    At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
    “s not wrung, see you; unforeseen rather – as skies
    Betweenpie mountains – lights a lovely mile”

  2. Michele C. on December 14, 2013 at 00:17

    “I waited patiently upon the Lord: he stooped to me and heard my cry,” the Psalmist says.

    I just opened my email and read Br. Geoffrey Tristram’s posting. My heart was warmed with his wonderful reflection. God does work in “mysterious ways,” I was blessed that he heard my cry for help and was lead to A.A. I now live by the motto, “There but Grace of God go I.” It has literally saved my life and opened my mind to the possibility of serving God in a new capacity. I have been undergoing a personal renewal of my faith and asking the Lord to let me know what it is that I am to do in order to serve him. I have been a teacher for the past 18 years, and I am exploring ministerial options.

    Thank you and God for all of your Grace and good Works.

  3. barbara frazer lowe on October 2, 2013 at 11:14

    Br. Tristram – Your words ‘:Pause, Breathe, Meditate, Share’, my daily gift from you, – and de Chardin’s prayer -. Thankyou.

  4. Ruth West on July 30, 2013 at 12:21

    Once when my husband and I were suffering some serious marital differences, he was working about 18 hrs. a day. One day we came across a poem entitled “Slow Me Down, Lord.” Simple as it was, it was a changing
    factor in our relationship. He did slow down, and our lives changed for the better.

  5. Polly Chatfield on July 25, 2013 at 10:11

    Dear Geoffrey,

    You always say the right thing, the needed thing. Thank you for the reminder to be patient in our waiting. Reading Teilhard de Chardin’s poem is in itself an act of slowing down, of being patient for whatever end is coming.

  6. Anders on July 25, 2013 at 08:21

    Thanks for the gift of shedding light on the challenge to “accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete”.

  7. DLa Rue on July 25, 2013 at 06:28

    I’m wondering if de Chardin and Rilke knew each other, or of each other’s works.

    Similarities in this quotation and one of the latter writer’s passages in “Letters to a Young Poet” make me think so. It begins…

    “Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.”

    Resonant, thanks.

  8. Lynn Harrington on January 20, 2012 at 15:51

    Thank you for your wisdom. Lynn Harrington +

  9. Joanne Wilson on January 20, 2012 at 10:17

    and to think of the years I strived for fullness and am slowly learning it is in accepting my incompleteness that I am blessed…reminds me of Sister Macrina W’s words…to “wear enough emptiness to set us free”.
    thank you for today’s word…once again.

  10. Carole Belgrade on January 20, 2012 at 08:39

    Wonderful reflection –

    As human beings, especially in today’s culture, we seek instant gratification. Immediate answers, Instant Wisdom! Success.

    But the Work of God depends on our continuing patience, praise and expressions of thanksgiving. Our collective ‘split’ from God comes when we engage in pride, the wanting to be someone, to have a title, a ‘turf’.

    To return to God’s purpose for us – we need to slow down and listen to the ways of the Holy Spirit and observe the daily renewal of our souls

  11. Mike Poteet on January 20, 2012 at 08:08

    A lovely reflection, and a beautiful quotation from de Chardin. Do you have a source for that you could share?

    I am an ordained Presbyterian minister (though currently “secularly” employed – as though the division is ever that sharp – and serving the larger church through freelance writing) who only recently discovered your website and so appreciate its thoughtful and Spirit-filled reflections. Continued blessings in your ministries.

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