I semi-enjoy driving my children to school. Most mornings are serene and sweet with moments to be treasured; however, some mornings, the coffee spills, the boys fight and the drive is anything but peaceful.
We were spared many such mornings by riding the bus as children (although the bus ride has fears and follies all its own). I have many happy memories sitting at the bus stop.
The moms would thoroughly embarrass us by walking us to the bus stop in their robes and slippers. They would chat and drink coffee or tea while we waited mortified under the giant oak tree for our bus to arrive. When the doors opened, we would escape into the traveling world of seatbelt-less pleather seats, tall enough to hide shy grade-schoolers from the high school rebels who sat at the back of the bus.
This week, as I was preparing a Bible study for some of my college friends about our place, our epoch in redemptive history, the image of a bus stop came vividly to mind. We are the last stop on the long bus route of redemptive history. The road traveled far exceeds the road left ahead. To use the terminology used by Vaughan Roberts in God’s Big Picture, God has skillfully woven His way through the pattern of the kingdom, the perished kingdom, the promised kingdom, the partial kingdom, the prophesied kingdom and the present kingdom. We, all of us, from the building of the Church in Acts to the present day, live in the proclaimed kingdom of God. This is the last stop before the kingdom bus parks for good in the perfected kingdom.
God is a tender bus driver, more tender than some would have Him be. He would get fired from a school district in a skinny minute. As it stands right now, He has had His bus parked at the same stop for thousands of years, waiting for all His little ones to hop on board. The kids in the back of the bus and the first to arrive are getting squirmy. They’ve been sitting there for quite some time. Even the most well-behaved kids on the bus have their moments of impatience and frustration. Can we just leave already?
It’s not as if His destination isn’t ready yet. The final touches of the new heavens and new earth are not waiting on a last gate or column that is on back-order. God has all things at His disposal. Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them when He was about to leave the earth. Since He is unlimited, efficient, creative and every other positive superlative one can imagine, I think it is safe to say that the delay in His returning to bring the new heavens and the new earth is not a facilities problem.
Everything is ready. All the work has been done. Christ finished the necessary work over 2,000 years ago. All systems are clear for take off.
Yet, God tarries, sometimes, it seems, too long in light of the destruction, pain and poverty that plague our world. It’s not merely our generation that sometimes feels He is taking too long; an aging Peter seemed to have the same problem with His understandably impatient flock.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9.
He is waiting for His people. He has children whom He has known and loved since before the first dawn that have yet to be introduced to Him and fully adopted as His own.
The sobering yet exciting news is that He intends to use us to befriend them, serve them, laugh and cry with them, all while sharing the good news of the gospel with them. That means that rather than sitting on the bus waiting for an embarkation to the new heavens and the new earth (which, strangely enough, will be right here, on a renewed earth), He intends us to hop off the comfy bus and hop into the lives of those around us. Our neighbors, our family, our children’s friends, even our enemies, these could be some of the beloved children whose presence He awaits.
The recognition of where we sit in the kingdom of God has potential to transform our flustered impatience into focused purpose.
Yet a little while and the kingdom bus will arrive at its final and originally-intended destination, a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwell. For such a time as this, let us prayerfully and boldly spend our days inviting others to the bus stop.
Our tender bus driver tarries for the time being, but the perfected kingdom is coming. Let us be found actively serving when the bus lurches forward.