This week has been a doozy for me. Monday started with a long and uneventful drive up to Pennsylvania where Mennonite Church USA got together a group of half a dozen of us new pastors to receive some training, some education, and a lot of opportunities to get to know one another and provide mutual support over the course of 3 days. It was awesome.
And then on the way back, my car broke down. Everything’s fine now, I was able to get a tow and a fix, and after a mere 24 hours got back on the road, but that uncertainty, when you don’t know how severe the problem is, how much it will cost to fix (IF it can be fixed), who to call, what to do, the uncertainty chews at you. You’re alone, in the dark, by the side of the road (and it doesn’t help if your phone is out of power). You feel the stress of the situation threatening your heart, putting pressure on your mind, throwing you off balance and making it easy to become paralyzed or make poor decisions. You feel blinded.
I was blessed and sheltered by God in ways I could never have asked for, and still I felt that pressure: I broke down 15 miles north of Harrisonburg, where I have friends and family aplenty. The tow truck driver was willing to trust me and bill my credit card in the morning after their office opened back up. God accompanied me in so many ways, most visibly in the face and hands of a rest stop attendant who shared openly about his incredibly rough past while showing me all kindness and care, helping me get clarity on what was wrong (serpentine belt fell off) and helping me get in touch with repair shops.
And yet for all that, I still felt chaos knocking on the door. We do our best to prevent and prepare for these things, but even the most minor hiccup in our plans carries the potential to derail our fragile sense of security. This week’s passage from 1 Thessalonians talks about how we Christians, of all people, should know to expect bad days, and know to prepare for them.
But how? How do you expect the unexpected, prepare for the unpredictable? By digging deep wells of peace, by building one another up with strong bonds of friendship, by taking moments to open our eyes to God’s action. In a word, by abiding in Christ.
The new pastors’ meeting was that kind of preparation for me. My time with you in worship and fellowship is that kind of preparation for me. My time with scripture; my time with family; my time with Creation, all these things, stored up over time, allowed me to take each setback, each moment of uncertainty over the last two days, and put it in perspective. So here I am, attending to my weekly responsibilities-- a day or two late, to be sure, but all is well.
When the boat rocks, when the engine locks, let us remember that all will be well.
Blessings on all of you for the readiness you have given me,