Pompeii was an incredible place to see. It would have taken a week to discover everything there was to discover about this historical site.
We visited on a beautiful summer day when the sky above us was a cloudless, brilliant blue and the breeze off the ocean swept over the sunbaked tourists walking stunned amid the ruins. I can see why Pompeii was a popular resort and vacation destination for the wealthy Romans of 70AD.
In my lack of knowledge, I had always pictured it as a quaint, probably impoverished, little mountain village. But I was so wrong.
It was on this trip to Pompeii I became aware of my tendency to jump in too quickly—to take off before I have all the facts or really understand what I’m wandering into. I had based my expectation on a few pictures from National Geographic magazines as a kid, and on my notion (insert arrogance for better accuracy) that this was a little country town on the side of a volcano some two thousand years ago. How sophisticated could it be?
But that revelation was only the beginning of my lesson.
Our tour guide led us through the streets, pointing out facts that kept me in a constant state of fascination and intrigue. When he told us about ancient street signs created by the Pompeians—street signs used before 79AD—my excitement skyrocketed. I started snapping pictures of the carving the guide pointed to. An ancient street sign—I thought this was the coolest thing. I was practically shoving people out of the way to get a better angle for my shots.
And then it happened.
My husband leaned over and, in quite the disapproving voice, said “Stop taking pictures of that. It’s not what you think it is.”
I gave him a look that implied I questioned the character of anyone who didn’t want a picture of a two-thousand-year-old street sign. I will never forget what he said next, “That’s not a horseshoe. It’s a street sign so the sailors from the boat docks can find the brothel district.”
Which was really a huge relief to me because I had been thinking those were some really weird horses with hooves shaped like that. It was also an aha moment.
As in… had I taken a moment to listen to the rest of what the guide was saying I wouldn’t have made it look like my husband was married to a depraved weirdo.
I’m guilty of that in so many other areas of my life as well. I get an idea or someone invites me in to something they are doing—something that serves others, meets a need, seems like something God might want me to do—and there I go.
Areas of ministry and church service may be the hardest places to temper our actions with waiting to receive clear instructions. Yes, sometimes immediate action is what is needed. But not every time. Yet something comes to my mind and I jump into the pool—without waiting to see if I’m the one that’s supposed to make the waves.
It’s true that there is no time to waste.
But I forget that God exists outside of time. A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years as a day to Him. We rush to respond to every idea with zealous, but only half informed enthusiasm. What if He’s asking us to wait, to listen, to learn. To equip ourselves with what we need in order to discern the right course of action. To let Him finish speaking to us.
We are an impatient generation and I am no different. But I wonder, when I rush forward without seeking, without waiting to hear God’s full instruction, am I seeking to fill a need in others, or am I seeking to fill a need in myself?
All of my street sign pictures have been deleted, but the memory does serve as a rather *ahem* upstanding reminder that patience can be often be a virtue.