The last few days have been marked by two contrasts in our family. The first was a broken bone for one of our children. What had been planned was a relaxed dinner of my daughter’s favorite meal, some homework, an early bedtime, and some evening chores. Instead, what happened was scarfed down meals, scooping up of activities for the waiting room, dividing up of the children with parents, and a long evening of x-rays, diagnoses, and treatment. After putting the patient to bed, then followed the flurry of emails to teachers, coaches, and parents to cancel classes, rearrange plans, and arrange for care. Basically, the experience was a classic experience of dealing with an unexpected crisis, the adrenaline that helps you manage everything, and the upending of expectations.
Also happening this week is the opposite experience. Our region is intently watching the weather forecast as a large, destructive hurricane is approaching the East Coast. Unlike an immediate crisis, the build-up is much slower with a hurricane. We can see several days out that the storm is coming. We can ascertain from previous experiences with hurricanes what sorts of supplies we should have on hand. Some areas are being evacuated in preparation, and schools have closed. But unlike an immediate crisis, this kind of crisis is like waiting for a crisis in slow motion. And these kinds of storms also involve much more ambiguity: the storm could create massive damage and even death, or the storm could take a different path, destroying other areas, but leaving our area less impacted. Instead of adrenaline, clarity, and decisiveness, this crisis involves lots of planning, worrying, and waiting.
As I have held these two experiences in tension this week, I have begun to see spiritual parallels. Often, we relegate our relationship with God to crisis mode. We lean into God when we need God, but most of our days are spent doing the work we have been given and are equipped to do without thinking much about God. But in a situation where there is a long wait with an uncertain outcome: a marriage that is struggling, a friend with a cancer diagnosis, an economy that puts one’s future in jeopardy – we find leaning into God more difficult. When we lean into God during ambiguous times, we not only have to share all our ourselves with God (the hurt, the doubt, the fear, the anger), we also become much aware of how little control we have in this world. Ambiguity in life tests our relationships with Jesus more than just about anything in life.
This week, my prayer for all of us is that we push against of our natural patterns. Instead pulling away from God in ambiguity, my prayer is that you might saddle up next to God and give the anxiety that ambiguity creates back to God. I promise that God can handle the weight of your anxiety. And in freeing you up from some of that anxiety, you might be able to offer that same comfort to a neighbor, friend, or stranger. I know God will give us strength to support one another once this storm hits. We will do the work we need to do. In the meantime, my prayer is that we help one another lift the burden of waiting. God is with us!