“Don’t you know that day dawns after night, showers displace drought, and spring and summer follow winter? Then have hope, hope forever, for God will not fail you.” Charles Spurgeon
I came out of a meeting this morning and had a voicemail that included a rendering of the above quote by preacher and writer, Charles Spurgeon. How great is that?!? I believe it’s the first time in my ministry I’ve had someone leave me a voicemail that included reading a quote that is meaningful to them that they wanted to share. There are so many things we share on FB and Instragram and all the other social media platforms that lift up and tear down, that inspire and encourage, or sometimes annoy and distract. But sometimes, sometimes a phone call with a familiar voice who reads a quote and wants to share it simply for the strength of today, reminds me of the gratefulness which can define all the days that we choose – some days a more difficult choice than others.
I got my car back a little over a week ago. Some of you realized it was gone when it failed to be present in my normal parking spot for a few weekends. I know that because one of you came in and asked if I was the one driving the “mom” van in robin’s-egg metallic blue. When I affirmed that was my ride, you shared that you didn’t believe it was doing much for my “cool clergy” factor. To which I replied that a friend was letting me drive it and frankly “free” superseded my need for cool clergy cred.
The need for concrete drainage openings along the curbs of our streets is without question vital to our shared quality of life regarding heavy rains and the possibility of flooding, of that there is no question. My need for a sunroof that opens, in fact one that is called panoramic, is vital to my spirit and connection to the outdoors. Being aware of the expanse of the heavens during both daylight, and as it turns out, moonlight hours inspires my intellect and enriches my joy at being alive. What it does not do, however, is guarantee a non-storm-drain-hitting drive back to one’s home on a lovely summer evening. It was simply so beautiful that night. The stars were out in such number, how could I keep from looking at them, intermittently of course, while driving home late at night with no one else out and about on the street in question? Did you know some people interpret stars as pin-holes poked in the veil between heaven and earth through which the light of God shines??? It is that for which panoramic sun/moon-roofs were invented, I’m certain! And NO, I had not had any wine or other libations, communion or otherwise, as a part of a marvelous evening.
When one hits a storm-drain along the curb in a street, it is neither pleasant nor subtle. And the spiritual reverie of imagining the light of God through the veil between heaven and earth comes to an abrupt stop as the immediacy of tires no longer working appropriately evokes language that is less than heavenly in nature. Both tires, front and back on the passenger side were ruined . . . go big or go home! Actually when you go big with a street storm-drain, going home doesn’t happen so much easily. The tow-guy was really very nice. He had a brace on his knee which I asked if related to his work to place cables underneath cars like mine to get them up on the flatbed of his truck. To which he responded that it didn’t come from that but from his spouse insisting he help plant mums in the backyard the night before, and that when your spouse purchases all the mums in all the world, your knee gives out before the planting of them does.
He nicely told me that I wasn’t the first to hit a storm-drain along the street, nor would I be the last. He then added that I might be one of the smaller percentage who don’t just take out one tire but manage to take out both. I thanked him for that fact and his clear admiration at my giftedness. He raised an eyebrow. I invited him to church and promised that I never drive our church bus either alone or filled with unsuspecting people. He told me he doesn’t much go to church working the hours he does and that he thinks it best that I stick to preaching rather than driving for a living. He thought that was pretty funny, I nodded and smiled, kind of.
It’s amazing how expensive it is to veer a little off-course and hit an immoveable cement object cut into the curb. We didn’t so much have the curbs and the storm-drains on the farm where I learned to drive, so . . . Yes, it is true that I’ve lived in the city longer than I lived in the country, and I’ve driven in the city longer than I drove in the country, but whatev. It’s stupid-expensive.
Since I am first a preacher and not Martin Truex or Kent Harvick (one and two in the NASCAR Cup series – we have that track thing at the Legends, of course I keep up with NASCAR – maybe an option when I retire?!!?) I’ve been reflecting on my latest doo-dah and it seems to me that . . . it does indeed often cost us no small amount in life when we veer off-course – along a drive home at night, and perhaps along the journey of faith toward home. That has truth as individuals making our way toward growing deeper in discipleship toward the life of Jesus, and as a denomination making our way toward growing more expansive in welcome and hospitality, and more generous in loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Getting through the moments we veer off-course and experiencing the sometimes temporary loss of that which makes our lives work most smoothly, we need the community of each other. Maybe even a good friend to lend us a “mom” van to see us through a tough time. Our coolness factor may take a hit, but our humbly grateful quotient may grow in ways God has always hoped. We are in some pretty challenging times as persons of faith in a complex world, and as part of a denomination that in some ways seems bent on hitting as many storm-drains along the curb as we can find. In both cases perhaps it’s time we gave up our need for a “coolness” factor, and simply admit our unity in our imperfections and biases in understanding, in life experiences, and in our contextual differences of learning and growing. And maybe we offer a willingness to hear one another and consider different ideas without as much defensiveness or adversarial nature in our being. When I can do nothing but admit that the weakness wasn’t anyone else’s fault but my own, that to get back on track will take a village to which I’m willing to ask for help, and that I am making a commitment to learning from a mistake to make life better for everyone as my hoped for outcome, maybe then we are closer to the way home than we might imagine.
I have my car back. I have not had the panoramic sun/moon-roof open yet. I think mostly because it’s been so hot and humid, and maybe a little because I’m growing my strength of focus so that the next time I do open it, I won’t drive while also looking at the stars. Yes, you may heave a justified sigh of relief! I’m grateful for generous of heart and mom-van-lending friends, for nice tow-guys with spouses who make them help plant all the mums, to collision repair people who work to make things nearly good as new, and to a God who pokes holes in the veil between heaven and earth so that light overcomes all darkness, even if and when you don’t choose to open your panoramic sun/moon-roof to look.