A couple of years ago I wrote this:
I struggle to patiently await the unfolding of events. I have a lot of ability to be patient with people, but not with circumstances. It is especially difficult to wait through something that seems to be holding up my life…like selling a house…have I mentioned that I have a house on the market? Just a few times?
While I am waiting, I think about one of my favorite phrases. I remind myself that many things happen “not at once, but at last.” Often I see this at work in life circumstances. Other times it defines a personal journey. I am not able to understand something at once, but at last, I get it. I am not able to forgive something at once, but at last, I am able to find that spirit in my heart.
I need soak time, time to mull things over, time to absorb. I don’t know if that makes me a slow thinker, or a deliberate one. Maybe it comes to the same thing. But I do know that when I’m faced with choice, conflict, decisions, I need time to reach a conclusion. And that’s frequently the way life is, at least in matters I would like to be quickly resolved. There is a process, or a chain of events, or a natural unfolding of the story that must be accommodated, must be honored. To try to rush an answer, in my experience, generally leads to a bad outcome. Or a different outcome than I want.
And so I wait. I wait for life to sort itself out, for forces to align. While I’m waiting, I’m doing what I can to make myself ready. And while I’m waiting, I see things happening that give me hope, bolster my faith, help me to know that when the time is right, I’ll have the answers I need. Not at once. But at last.
No, I haven’t sold my house, and it isn’t even listed right now. That story is still in the making.
But there’s another story unfolding, another example of “not at once, but at last.”
My son is going to college. He’s planning to get a degree.
He’s almost 27, spent five years in the army, has worked the last three years. He has a commercial driver’s license, and has supported himself with driving the last couple of years. He’s doing well and advancing in his job. But finally, finally, he wants to pursue education.
It’s been a long time coming. When he was in high school we expected him to go straight to college, and he almost did. But ultimately he chose the army instead. That was an education in itself, and a decision he’s proud of, one we supported. After five years, he finished his army contract, and we talked school again.
No, that’s not correct.
I badgered him to go to school, and he dug in his heels. He just wasn’t interested, and nothing I said made a difference.
Last week, out of the blue, he told me he’s going to enroll this fall. He wants to get a degree in engineering. He got bored, and he’s ready for a change.
Let’s just say I was…surprised. And then I remembered my line.
Not at once. But at last.
Tonight he called to tell me he’s rearranging his work to accommodate a new schedule. He’s going to use the GI Bill. He’s working out the details, with no prompting from me, no coaching. I know he’s just in the early stage, and there’s a long road between the first semester of a degree program and the last. And I know he might not get there. He might get derailed. I know all that. But it’s a beginning, and he’s taking the initiative.
I also know that a degree is no guarantee of success. Life can be rewarding and wonderful without higher education; a degree is only worth something if it leads somewhere. I know people who went to college, but didn’t really benefit from the experience. Somehow though, I don’t think that will be the story here. I want this for him so he can discover his potential, and that’s really what education is about.
So again I absorb the lesson life has to teach. Be patient. Let the story unfold, let it write itself. Don’t assume you know how it will end because you’ve seen the beginning.
This time the lesson is sweet. It’s very sweet. Not at once. But at last.