It has taken me 20 weeks of this pandemic, or perhaps 23 years of pastoral ministry, or maybe even 54 years of existence, to conclude that I do not handle disruption well. I can become internally agitated when a reasonable request is made while I am preparing for Sunday’s service at my dining room table. Prior to COVID-19, my soul may have become disturbed within me when I heard news of a weekend snowstorm. As long as I can remember, I have had incidences of the hairs on my neck bristling when my plans were disrupted by the delays of those I dearly love. It might be a problem.
Even those with a cursory understanding of the plot line of the Bible would know that God is frequently found disrupting the lives of people and nations for His purposes. Moses was living large and enjoying life what God appeared to him and told him it was time to move. Abraham was enjoying the fruits of long-delayed parenthood when God announced that it was time for a mountain-climbing trip with Isaac that would result in only one of them returning home. Esther, David, Peter, Paul, and Timothy all were faced with disruptions. We rarely know why, but God finds disruption necessary.
If you are like me, you have a choice: see disruptions as an attack against your ideal timetable or see disruptions as an avenue for God’s adjustments. Is it possible that the Master of the Universe may have other plans and priorities for your productive hours? Is it possible that the Lord Almighty may be reminding us that snowflakes, germs, and spotty Wi-Fi are not an enemy to our efficiency? Is it possible that these disruptions are, in fact, the crucial appointments amid our chaotic days? What if you and I were to see disruptions as blessings instead of blights?
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12 & Proverbs 16:25 (ESV)
Solomon, in his words of wisdom, was compelled by the Holy Spirit to state the exact words twice. This double dose of truth disturbs me. I would like to think that my way (disruption-free hours of uninterrupted productivity and purpose) is right, but it is not; it is destructive. It is destructive for at least two reasons: first, I am denying the truth that I savor disruption, if it is a distraction of my own choosing (scrolling through Facebook is healthy but that request to help bring in the groceries is a step too far); second, I am often so engrossed in what I want to be doing that I mostly unaware of what God might be wanting me to do. I am going my ‘right way’ and lying to and limiting myself in the process.
The biblical model for so many whose stories are contained in its pages is to embrace the disruptions, without grumbling, as guidance from God. Through hurricanes, He will give us rest. Through traffic jams, He will teach us patience. Through a loud neighbor just beyond the windowpane, He will drive us to compassion. Then, perhaps, we will learn that disruptions are God’s way of directing us toward greater things.
May these words be just the disruption you needed today.
When you spend more than twelve hours on the road, driving from Maryland to Massachusetts, you have a great deal of time to think. Because of the weather conditions last Saturday, our 382 miles trip took much longer than I anticipated. It was a challenging and stressful drive over snowy and slushy highways. The satellite radio and the DVDs from Redbox© made the travelling a bit more bearable while I focused on the road ahead. Throughout the journey, my thoughts turned to lessons about life and living, some superficial and some profound.
The first lesson I learned was that I ought not trust forecasts. We live in a society saturated in information, including phone apps that will show you live weather radar and predictions for storm patterns. As we were anticipating our trip home from Jeanine’s brother’s funeral, I watched and listened to meteorologists in Baltimore (via television) and Boston (via phone app) predicting that the storm was expected to move beneath us and travel out to sea before blowing into Massachusetts via the Cape. New Jersey, Westchester County and Western Connecticut were supposed to be spared more than a dusting. No such luck was to fall upon us. The computers were wrong and the storm took a more western course, forcing us to face light but accumulating snow every minute of our trip. Experts are not always correct.
I also learned that there are times, rare but right, that staying with others while disregarding the letter of the law is the proper course of action. Most of the highways we traveled (The New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Interstates 87, 287, 84 and 90) were three lanes in either direction. In the worst of conditions, these throughways became two sets of ruts travelling along the divided white lines. At times there was a series of 15 or so cars, all moving at 45 mph, all illegally crossing over their lanes and maintaining the safety of the roads. Obedience to the law is not always best.
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12
The biggest lesson I learned was that I could stand to be more humble. Early on in the process, I made the decision to return to work on Sunday. We made our plans based on my choice to be home Saturday night. Throughout our time away I saw weather reports and I remained resolute. I received texts from people in the church advising me to reconsider and I remained resolute. My wife wanted me to change our plans and I remained resolute. I unnecessarily risked everything to show that I was right, but I was wrong. I feel that needs to be stated again: I was wrong. I was proud. I have since apologized to my wife and children for my arrogance. I am not always right.
Thank God that we, despite my own foolishness, arrived safely at home. In hindsight, I should have listened to those around me, led by the Spirt, instead of listening only to myself. There was a way that appeared to me to be right, and it certainly could have led to disaster. I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn these lessons and not harmed by the consequences of my unwise haughtiness. Let’s hope that you and I can all learn from my stupidity.
Despite the fact that my family and I live in an urban area, we are regularly visited by more rural creatures. A few years ago, we had birds nesting in our window boxes. Then, the other night my wife told me that while I was attending the church’s prayer meeting, a family of raccoons (a mother and five babies) were stranded on our neighbor’s roof. Somehow they had climbed up but apparently they were now unable to go back down. Jeanine, David and Joshua were intrigued by the mother’s watch-care over her rambunctious litter as she divided her time equally between finding a safe path for her babies off the roof and controlling their rolling into the gutters and running around and over one another. Jeanine had no success at calling animal control and in the morning the newest residents of Nahant Avenue were gone.
As Jeanine recounted her observations of this family of raccoons, it was obvious that her concern was that one of those little babies, completely unaware of the danger, would playfully roll too close to the edge and plummet the roughly 20 feet to the ground. She identified with the maternal instinct of the mother raccoon as she would grab and pull back to safety her little ones. Through it all, the babies simply wanted to play – chasing one another and rolling around into cracks and corners, seemingly oblivious that trouble lurked just inches away.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)
In many ways, I am like one of those baby raccoons and God is that attentive mother. I am regularly courting danger, oblivious at how close my destruction may be. In hindsight, I can recognize places of reckless behavior: there are times that I drive too fast, lift too much, dabble with sin too carelessly and stand too close to the edge. It would be impossible to fully comprehend how many times I was ignorantly heading for death (at least spiritually if not physically), only to be rescued by the hand of my loving heavenly Father. When I was about to fall, the Lord interceded in my life and spared me the damages I unknowingly planned on experiencing.
Like I said, we do not know how the raccoons got off the roof; all we know is that in the morning they were gone and there was no sign of any negative outcome of their evening in danger. It is the same with all of us – not only do we rarely recognize the danger, we also rarely recognize the redemption. We remember the fun we had and forget the risks we took. It is unfortunate that we only occasionally sense the hand of God – redirecting, redeeming and reaching us – at our regular moments of needed rescue. Praise Him, He is always there, whether we know it or not.
I’d like to think that those five little raccoons are in a wooded glen, frolicking with their mother. I’d like to think that the real dangers they experienced on the neighbor’s roof are never realized. I’d like to think the same for all of us, that God will continue to guide us through the valley of the shadow of death while we fear no evil. I’d like to think these thoughts might make me rethink my own plans, which leads to destruction, and follow God’s direction, which leads to life.