By John Blase
Growing up my grandfather had a dairy farm in North Texas, so my brother and I spent summers around cows. We soon learned that these creatures are not in a hurry about anything, ever, at all. I once heard the writer Barry Lopez use the phrase “the insouciance of cows.” I’m not a big fan of fancy words. But I like Lopez, and I like his writing, so I looked up that five-dollar jobber. Insouciance means “a relaxed and calm state”—a feeling of not worrying about anything. It would seem cows are fine to wait indefinitely, much to my grandfather’s consternation (fancy word, sorry). He was always behind on something and, therefore, always trying to hurry things up. But as he experienced daily, there is an earthly reality known as “the insouciance of cows,” and all the cussing, stomping, fist-shaking, and spitting in the world won’t change that.
Naomi gave Ruth a mother-in-lawley piece of advice: Wait. See what happens.
And I wonder if Ruth gave a subtle eye roll, for not one of us likes to wait, no, not one. But Ruth was obedient, and her story continued along its winding path, which later led to the newborn cry of a baby grandson who would grow to one day be the king who chased hard after God’s heart (1Samuel 13:14). There was no way Ruth could’ve known that back there, among the barley bundles. She had to wait.
What if you heard me use the phrase “the insouciance of Jesus?” Knowing what you know now (because I’ve told you) about the word, would that ring true with your image of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? The God of both the living and the dead?
Jesus didn’t walk this good earth not caring about anything, but rather not worrying about anything. And this is a crucially important distinction. There was a characteristic of restraint in Him that, far from being burdensome, was incredibly liberating.
Jesus waited on God the Father for direction at every turn. He only did what He saw the Father doing, and only said what He heard the Father saying (John 5:19). Jesus’s restraint demonstrated obedience far beyond mere lip service to the Father—the Father who spoke at every turn, Don’t worry. Trust me. The resulting picture we have is that of the Son of God relaxed and calm; in a word, insouciant.
I’m not sure the insouciance of cows has anything to do with the state known as wonder. I suppose it’s possible, but I’m not certain. But I do believe the insouciance of Jesus was filled with anticipation, this braced-on-the-edge-of-his-sandals excitement for what God was going to do.
Ruth had to live in this posture of waiting as well, wondering what in this world was going to happen next. And so do we. And to this, God still seems to always respond with this rather parental advice: Wait. See what happens.
So we wait.
The daily, visible practice, the discipline of wonder-working-waiting-ness is maybe at least one way the watching world can spot an obedient Christian. And trust me, they’re still watching.