I was in the Pentagon, in Washington DC, the day after the war in Kosovo came to an end. Relief was universal, not just because a resolution to the conflict had been reached, but because people would now be able to spend time with their families again!
The Pentagon is a vast structure. Built in 1941 to house the US military headquarters, the building itself covers some 29 acres, with an additional 67 acres set aside to park up to 9,500 cars. Walking inside its 17 miles of corridors, spread over 5 floors, can be highly confusing to the uninitiated!
But perhaps the most striking thing of all is the central courtyard. Accessible only through the building, some five acres of land have been planted with grass, trees and all kinds of flowers. The setting provides solace for the weary, a place of contemplation away from the pressure of decision-making.
At lunch-time, the courtyard was crowded. Around the edges had been planted some magnolias, now in full bloom. As people walked to and from the various entrances to the building, they could appreciate the beauty of the waxen flowers. Closer to the centre of the courtyard stood some magnificent elms, reaching up as if to compete with the soaring structures of this city of concrete. Between the elms were black ash trees, half of the size of their towering neighbours. Each plant and tree seemed to blend into its surroundings to give exactly the right level of shade, beauty and light.
But the shock came later! On my way out of the building, past the piece of the Berlin wall carefully encased for all to see, I came across some black and white pictures of the Pentagon’s opening ceremonies. They too took place in the central courtyard. Crowds had gathered to hear speech after speech. But they were surrounded, not by magnificent trees, but by tiny skeletons, bare trees, with not a single leaf or flower to anticipate their future glory.
It is amazing to think that those who carefully planned this garden nearly 60 years ago had thought about what it might look like, when they themselves had long gone. In their minds they would have seen the great elms towering over the slower growing ash trees, the magnolias, the grassed areas, the walkways and the benches.
All according to plan
I was immediately reminded of God who plans all things well. Not for him the fickleness and immediacy of fallen human nature. From before the foundation of the world the Divine Trinity planned for Christ to come… at just the right time! Thousands upon thousands of years passed before our Lord appeared. Perhaps, even now, we can hear the voice of Old Testament saints crying out, ‘When will you come?’ Even today, we long for Christ to come back again. We see the evil around us and we also cry out, ‘When will you come?’ The answer is the same today as it was then … at just the right time.
We know that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God’, but we want the good now! Like the prodigal son, we want our blessings today. The answer remains the same; the Lord works all things according to his plan, not ours. He knows what the end will be, and it will be perfect.
God is not like us
On the way back to the hotel, I came off the Metro (the Washington DC underground) at a brand new station. Barely a year old, it already boasts fully grown trees! Fast growing varieties were imported and planted for immediate effect. We have come a long way, from the men who planned for the future enjoyment of coming generations, to the ‘must have it now’ philosophy of the present age. Leaving in quiet contemplation, I was so glad that our God is not like us. He does all things well, according to his plan. And one day, at just the right time, he will come back again.
He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).