Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Driving a Delivery Van is Teaching This Pastor

Our Will and His Will
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.
— James 4:13-17 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
God has humbled me sufficiently in the present season.  I’ve learned so much, not that I’ve appreciated it all.  Much of it I loathed, bunkered down grinding out widgets in my own little fear factory, where, without faith, I’d have been on a collision course with bitterness.  Oh, there have been those hours, and entire days!  But that little trough is now gone.
Many of the changes that forced their way into my cosy world have implicated me in my own private groaning sessions with which only my wife can fully attest.  And yet God has His will and that will, will be done.  His will out of my complaint has been to form within it the resolve that complaint has gotten me nowhere but dashing back to Him, and back to the untenable nature of the season.  No escape.  No purpose in anger or denial.  No way around but through.
At the end of complaint, there’s no other way but His way!
When complaint gets you nowhere
 in a season where complaint is appropriate,
you find God has a bigger purpose
than you ever could initially think.
Being out of paid pastoral ministry has forced me to work where everyone else works.  No time to get quality professional work.  Not called to it anyway.  Only ‘called’ to pastor.  A no-win situation, meaning guaranteed groaning and growth.  A season of learning, of new experience, even adventure, in situ.  God loves it when we’re entirely out of our comfort zones.  (And yet it would never be my, or our, first choice!)
So here is my present context:
I drive a delivery van.  As I drive my delivery van around the suburbs, dropping off meals, many to the elderly and physically impaired, God has told me, “You’re helping keep these people alive!”  Wow.  I’m not in ministry (not in a paid sense, as I’d grown accustomed) and that was a hard transition; something I’d never do voluntarily.  And yet, I had become a ‘doing’.  This season taught me that I’m more than what I do.  In my person I’m a pastor, but I’m not a pastor when I’m reduced to simply doing pastoral work.  See the irony?
A second job I have is as a school handyman.  I haven’t worked on the tools for twenty years!  Instead of going home with my head and heart ready for a rest, now I have sore muscles.  Instead of having to manage my hours and appointments, ward against burnout, manage my accessibility (in a role that has to be accessible), and guard against the negative nuances of pastoral relationships, I’m having to manage my body, and learn not to panic when many momentary different complexities flood my mind in executing a task.
And God has shown me this new thing: I’m grateful for work, for the opportunity to put bread on the table for my family.  What a blessing it is to do eight hours and feel I’ve completed something.  Working shows us that the seemingly impossible can be achieved if we break the task down.  Working well requires the expression of faith.  And what a blessed achievement is the process of work! — as we reflect on it.
But God has shown me something incredibly more important.  I may never pastor again.  And that would be okay.  In the sense that my life could be over tomorrow.  I’m a puff of smoke.  We all are.  At weaker times, I have hankered after pastoral work, but such a hankering leaves the important things of life truly neglected.  My wife.  My young son.  My beautiful daughters.  My extended family.  My friends.  My faith in the resplendence of the moment.  Being a Christian is much more important to God than me being a pastor.  I’ve learned to let go… and to let God have His way.  (And yet, I will need to learn and relearn that lesson again and again in this life.)  I may never pastor again, also, if that were God’s will, for which only the future can tell.  I offer my hand to my Lord, but it’s His choice, His will, His work, and He doesn’t need me!  And I better be okay with that.
If I’m looking too far ahead at potential pastoral calls I miss what is here, for me, and for my family, for those relying on me, including my employers.  I fail if I take my eye off the moment at hand.  I fail, and I miss the blessings availed only to present day life.
James reminds me that I have only the moment.  I have my nearly 50 years — a good life, most of it.  Younger people than I have been worthy of death, and I’m equally worthy.  It’s too late when it’s too late.  Tomorrow, or even today, could be that day.
We have our plans and aspirations, we all do.  But we presume a lot.  Our plans reveal our pride, our ignorance.  The possibilities hold God to ransom, for we require God’s will align to our hopes and dreams.  When God’s will doesn’t align, we’re horribly offended.  And again we’ve gotten life upside down.
Presumptions, plans, pride, and possibly many other ‘P’ words, among many other words, prove that we easily, and daily, get ahead of ourselves in going ahead of God.
We need to understand that God’s will is final — it happens whether we like the way it pans out or not.  This is good, because the kernel of truth is simple; no one controls life other than God.
If someone, anyone, thinks God doesn’t exist,
I show them their absolute dependence
on a trillion factors outside their control.
Entwined in God’s will is the concept of destiny; His will that will be.  At a time off in the future, what will be, will be.  That makes us feel small, and so it should.  It makes us less presumptuous that what we plan is guaranteed.  Nothing is guaranteed.
How much more obedient we’d be if we added the words, “If the Lord wills…” before every statement of plan.
Going ahead of God is as much a sin as any evil we can do.  Getting ahead of ourselves proves we have become a god.
Add the words “If the Lord wills…” before every stated plan and be in the lap of the will of your Lord. (James 4:15)
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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