The Mills of God
"Though the mills of God grind exceedingly slow, they grind exceedingly fine." So said not the Bible, but Frederick von Logau in the 17th century (and translated by Longfellow in to a short poem called Retribution). von Logau was apparently quoting a pagan aphorism which was used, among other things, to explain God's (the gods') slowness to punish.
God does, apparently, take the long view. But is it all about punishment? Why are we so fixated on punishment? Why do we want so badly for people to be punished? Do we really expect and want God to be about retribution?
Is this our idea of the deity, our creator, having spoken the cosmos into being and pronounced it good, now just patiently grinding us all to a pulp?
God is about transformation and salvation. God does say, "Vengeance is mine." This is not, however, God's mission statement, but rather a warning that it is not our place to judge others, a reminder that judgment belongs to God.
And James reminds us: Mercy trumps judgment. God's judgment is about making things right, so that the yoke is lifted from the necks of the oppressed, so that prisoners and captives go free. God is about showing mercy. And so the Lord says things like "I will be with you," "Be ye transformed!" and "I have come so that they may have life abundant" and "I have not come to condemn the world but to save it." It is we ourselves who get busy with making people prisoners and captives while God is the one working to make them free.
The mills of God are working to transform the world into a world of mercy and peace and yes, justice, which is not so much about punishment as it is about restoration of right relationship - righteousness. We, however, want justice to be about punishment, not transformation. Locking people up and throwing away the key. We want people to get what they deserve and deserve what they get.
But what does a mill do? It takes a raw material like wheat or corn and first breaks it down into a product that is then transformed into lifegiving bread - wheat loaves, cornbread, tortillas. We miss the point if we stop with the grinding, if we think the miller is only about destruction. It's ultimately about bread.
The mills of God grind exceedingly slow, it is true. But the result is salvation.