Have you heard the term "jumping the gun"? In sporting events such as the 100 yard dash, a starting block is placed on the ground, runners squarely planting their feet in those blocks in order to give them a little "launch" into the race, and then they await the firing of the starter's pistol. The starter will be poised, ready to pull the trigger, and the runners will be determined to be the first off the blocks. Sometimes the runners "jump the gun" though. They make a false start - long before the gun fires, they will launch from their starting position and into "action" down the track. As they recognize their error, they stop short, return to the blocks, and assume the position again. Do it often enough and the runner can sometimes be disqualified from the race by those who have oversight for the race. Why? Those false starts signal you aren't really paying attention as you need to be and you are outside of the permitted behavior of the runners. If you are a little like me, even a tiny bit like me, you have made a few "false starts" in your day! What we do in that moment when we realize we are running at full-bore without any real reason to be running the direction we are running is what matters. Do we stop short and return to the block, paying closer attention, or do we just keep running, because after all, we are running in the general direction of the finish line?
Willingness and stupidity don’t go well together. If you are too eager, you will miss the road. We are ruined by our own stupidity, though we blame the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2-3 CEV)
Runners learn to "tune out" the various things which distract, like the crowd, those cheering or coaching from the sidelines, and even their own thoughts. They learn to "tune into" the various sounds of the race. They actually listen for the subtle click of the starter's gun being cocked, knowing they are about to launch into the race at a break-neck pace, and then they wait. It is that moment between the clicking of the hammer being pulled back and the gun being raised into the air that the most false starts have the potential of being made. Why? We anticipate the connection of the hammer once the trigger is pulled. Anticipation is one of our biggest obstacles when we are trying to pay attention closely to what we are seeing and hearing. Anticipation is simply a foretaste of what is to come. When we hear the click of the hammer, we know the firing of the gun is not too far behind. The moments in between may be infinitely small, but they make all the difference in keeping us from having to stop short and take our position all over again!
Why does the runner jump the gun? Isn't it because they have foreknowledge of what is coming next? This is exactly why we want to wait for the actual "command" to start to the race we are about to run. The foreknowledge we may have is based on what we expect. We may not have all the knowledge - because the starter is looking where we aren't - all around the track, at each runner's stance, and even at the sidelines. Why? The starter is ensuring all the runners are going to be safe when they launch from the starting blocks! He isn't just casually firing that starting gun - he is anticipating the right moment when he sees everyone "settled into the blocks", course ahead without any hazards, and the attention of the runners astutely in tune with his every move. God isn't much different from that starter - he is anticipating the right moment for us to "launch" from the blocks - but not until we settle into the blocks, focus our attention, and remove all the preconceived ideas of how the race will be run.
The runners see what is immediately in front of them. The starter sees the entire track. He knows if there are hazards to be removed before the runners can safely take to the track. He also knows by the stance of the runners' bodies if they are ready for the race. He isn't responsible to get them ready - but he is responsible for creating the best conditions for them to run the race! We might take a lesson here - God is sometimes waiting on us to be ready to run the race - getting ourselves focused enough to hear the gun, confident he has our safety in mind, and tuning out all the other distractions which beckon for our attention.
I have run a few races in my years, and I have botched a whole lot of starts. One thing I know for sure - you sometimes just need to stop, shake it off, return to the blocks and get in the zone again. You cannot just keep running. The return to the blocks may be a little humiliating when you realize you were the only one out there running, but if we let our pride get in the way, we will just be running aimlessly, disqualifying us from ever winning the race in the end anyway. So, rather than get all wigged out about having to admit we jumped the gun, let's get real about not paying attention, and being a little distracted or too caught up in the anticipation of what we thought was going to happen. In the end, it is this honest appraisal of the situation which makes us more ready when the gun finally does fire! Just sayin!