Musing 7.17.20


One aspect of my life effected by the pandemic has been decision making.  I still make them; but in many cases, I lack certainty.  In the past I could assume what things would be like in six months so I could make a fairly informed decision.  I am used to a linear world.  There is a problem; there is a solution.  We move from point A to point B to fix it.  Fairly simple.  Today things are fluid.  We aren’t sure where or what point B is.   Regardless of research, thought, consultation, and planning, things can be easily undone through no fault of our own.  What made sense yesterday doesn’t today. 

Because situations change with such frequency, decisions are tentative.  When they are tentative, we know we lack control.  When we lack control, we are uncertain about our future.  We just don’t like being in a position of not knowing what to do about our future.  Circumstances make life unfamiliar.  We want to do what is right, and we often don’t know what that is.  We do the best we can with what we know at the time. I felt this as we talked about re-opening King Avenue for in-person worship.  I feel it now in the debate about re-opening schools.  It is not secure or comfortable place to be.  I don’t like prefacing thoughts with, “Who knows?”

When I prepare a group to go on a mission trip to the orphanage in Mexico, I tell them to expect the same answer to any question they ask me.  The answer will invariably be, “I don’t know.”   When is supper?  I don’t know.  Where is supper?  I don’t know.  What are we doing tomorrow?  I don’t know.  I can give tentative plans but not definite plans.  This is because our Mexican hosts control the agenda, not I.  Their plans change. One of the most important learnings of a mission trip is learning that we are not in control. We place our lives in the hands of another.  We can resist that in frustration and not experience what the children have to offer.  Or we can open ourselves to the not knowing and experience the spirit and love of the children.  Eventually the group gets accustomed to my stock response and rolls with it.  It is a healthy moment when members accept the lack of control and open up.  They open up to each other, the children, and God.  That is what makes the trips so rich.

What if we saw this time as a mission trip? We realize our sense of control has always been tentative.  We realize our lives are in God’s hands.    We know mission trips can be fearful, painful, challenging, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and inconvenient.  They can also be transformative, expanding, spiritual, joyful, accepting, tolerant, forgiving, and maturing. We learn about ourselves, our neighbors, and God.  We learn our gifts, our neighbors’ gifts, and our need of each other.  We learn community.  In a sense the life of faith has always been a mission trip, hasn’t it?

This prayer from Henri Nouwen’s A Cry for Mercy gives me support. 

Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.”  You are the sea.  Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same.  Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover.  Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back.  There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.

My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love.  To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.  

O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the seas remains the sea.  Amen.

Hope you are safe and well.