So much is out of our control. That is today’s subtitle for our worship series ‘Good enough’ and I think the Holy Spirit once again aligned the stars—or the texts and topic to speak to me and I think all of us.
This past week Paul and I spent 3 days at MD Anderson in Houston seeing a pancreatic cancer specialist- who was brilliant—yet after all the testing and consultation, we were told: No there are no clinical trials to participate in, no magic drugs, no cure; that what all the doctors I have consulted to date have said is what is recommended: start on standard of care chemo.
That is not what I desired! I’m a control freak (although I try to deny it) and I longed and actively worked to get a different outcome. Instead I am to live the life that I have left with joy and intention but since the cancer has spread to my lungs and lymph nodes, no matter what I had wanted, dreamed of, hoped for, prayed fervently for, the chemo is planned to extend my life a few months but not years, not decades.
I had hoped to grow old with Paul, be an elderly gray-haired woman, see my grandkids grow up, and be at Zion’s for much longer! But I can’t make that happen …. My life’s circumstances are WAY out of my control.
So, I tell God my sorrow…my grief over this leg of my cancer Camino and I have to be honest, I’m in the stages of grief where I am not only sad but a little mad too. But our God is a compassionate, grace-filled God so God listens, cries with me, suffers with me. And I stay connected. I talk, I read, I meditate, I pray, I listen to music, I listen…. And God speaks.
This week one way was through a devotion in Kate Bowler’s book GOOD ENOUGH. It’s titled “Asleep on the Job” and those of you who are also reading this book during Lent might recall it as the entry that discusses the story of Jesus and his disciples in the boat when a mighty storm threatened their very survival—and Jesus slept right through it. When he awoke they incredulously said ‘Don’t you care if we drown?”
Kate Bowler writes ‘I wonder how often we have the same thought. Do you not care? Where are you? Why have you allowed this? Have you hidden your face from me? Are you punishing me?’ Where is God when marriages fail, families crumble, miscarriages and diagnoses, loneliness and depression take everything? We are God’s children! Shouldn’t we get something better when Jesus is right there? God seems asleep on the job!
But then Jesus stills the water and they whisper “Who is this? The winds and the water listen to him.” And Jesus? He asks them “WHY ARE YOU SO AFRAID?” Going right for their jugulars.
Kate then recaps their time with Jesus to that point, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the walk to Emmaus a few of them had. The walk when they confessed “we had hoped he was the one….” After everything, they still believed Jesus had let them down. They didn’t get it when they were on the boat with him, or when the news of Jesus resurrected from the dead spread, or when Jesus walked beside them…. “we had hoped he was the one….”
Then we, the readers, are prompted to wonder how often we have a picture of who we want God to be. The ways we expect God to act. The miracles we want God to perform. The storms we have asked God to calm.
We had hoped… he was the one who would eradicate the pandemic.
We had hoped… he was the one who would reverse dementia. Save the marriage. Erase mental illness. Give us a baby. Cure my cancer….
We hoped he was the one who wouldn’t LEAD US INTO STORMS…. BUT INSTEAD THIS IS OUR GOD. The one who calls us to love the stranger and foreigner and enemy. The one who leads us into chaos. The one who heals some but not all.
This is our God…The one who so rankled the powers that be that he became a hunted man, one who Herod sought to kill. The one who despite the warning said he was busy! He had demons to deal with and healings to accomplish…. Who yet cried over the state of his beloved city and her people, saying that he desired to gather them together, to protect them as a mother hen protects her brood, the chicks who need protection from the foxes that lurk just outside the chicken coop...
I read a reflection on todays lectionary by Jennifer Moland-Kovash in the Christian century in which she shared that she isn’t in danger like many people so she’s uncomfortable identifying with the chicks (and I thought, oh my think of all the Ukrainians whose lives are absolutely in danger and who are exactly like those chicks needing protection) but she goes on to say that there really are a lot of things that keep us from living fully, and most of them boil down to fear.
Quite cleverly, she writes that “fear is very foxy indeed.” And I was stunned when I read her next paragraph because guess what the repeated phrase was?? GOOD ENOUGH! Our Lenten phrase! Listen:
The fox that tells us we aren’t good enough -- that’s fear.
The fox that says your barnyard is changing and maybe you won’t fit in anymore- that’s fear. The fox that tells you that you don’t have enough -- that’s fear.”
The fox that tells me that if I don’t make the right choices in what I eat or how much I exercise, or how I’m managing stress, or which chemo to take, I will die sooner and maybe cut my life shorter by a few months -- that’s fear. (that’s my addition of course).
Fear is so very foxy, especially for chickens like us. So, what do we do? We look to Jesus’ example. He doesn’t hide, even though he knows he will die. Go and tell that fox I’m busy bringing good new to those who need it, being the hands and feet of God in this world. Go and tell that I’ve got better things to do than huddle in the corner waiting to die.
Go and tell that we’re busy living, but when the time comes, we’ll be under the wings of Jesus.
Do not be afraid. God tells Abraham that and so many of our brothers and sisters in scripture and every day since then. But it doesn’t erase the difficulty of being human and living our sometimes-shattered lives…. this week I also listened to a Good Enough podcast (I recommend them by the way) where Kate Bowler chatted with Episcopal priest Liz Tichenor who in her late 20s lost her mother to suicide and then one year later, her 5-week-old newborn son--- all during the time she was being ordained into ministry and starting her new call.
Powerful sharing was overheard about some pretty painful life experiences and how to live as a believer, a follower of Jesus, who despite everything is told to not be afraid and tries ones best to follow God, but not all Pollyanna -- but honestly. Her story is shared in the book THE NIGHT LAKE and it’s about grief and faith --I haven’t bought it yet but it looks good despite the pain of her story because the hope of our faith is what is transforming and is the ultimate focus.
People of God, the disciples ask who is this? This is our God.
The one who dies and who is resurrected.
The one whose presence remains yet whose absence is always before us in this still broken world.
The one who loves us and stays by our side, regardless of how little we understand or how often we wonder if our Savior is asleep on the job….
Yes, there is so much that is out of our control but never forget, we are not alone in the chaos. We are not abandoned. The wind and waves still know his name and so do we.
We are the chicks gathered by the mother Hen. And we are not an only chick either--- we are surrounded by all the other chicks, beloved just as we are -- good enough: for God, for ourselves, and for this walk of faith.
Let us embrace the imperfections, the chaos, the lack of control in this life and grow, not despite but because of all that. Knowing that the Divine One loves, accompanies, protects, comforts and saves us, and even gives us peace. Amen.