Random events can wreak havoc on our lives. (The recent hurricane-pounding of southeast Texas comes immediately to mind.) What do you do when random events conspire to mess things up?
I was reminded of something humorous (Note – I’m not making light of the seriousness of hurricane damage here!) that happened one week while I was serving the United Methodist church in Laramie, WY. (Laramie – picture a city full of wonderful, generous people hunkered down while the wind howls as they try to outlast a winter that starts in October and ends in May.)
In front of the church was a sign that allowed us to put up a message that could be changed from week to week. The letters were small metal pieces, like an upside down ‘V’ that hung over a slot cut in the back of the sign. To change the sign, the process went like this: 1) decide what you want on the sign; 2) pick out the letters to spell it out; 3) take them out to the sign; 4) hope like heck the wind doesn’t blow too badly while you put them up.
One particular week, I was putting up a sermon title, “The Farthest Thing From God’s Mind.” It was about the mistaken belief that hurtful events were somehow punishment sent by God. My sermon treatise was that the farthest thing from God’s mind is to hurt us – regardless what we’ve done! I selected the letters and put them in the proper order. I carried them out to the sign, protectively shielded inside my windbreaker. I opened the glass side of the sign and started putting them in the slots to spell out the message title. Everything went great! Right up until the last two letters … then a swirl of wind happened to come right up under the glass and lifted most of the letters up and deposited them on the ground. To say that I was unhappy would be an understatement! I looked at the collection of letters strewn around the ground … then glanced back at the sign … and started laughing. The only letters remaining from the sermon title said, “The Fart Thing.” Briefly I toyed with the idea of leaving it just as it was, claiming divine providence if anyone asked. I knew, though, that proclaiming God’s grace in all circumstances (the sermon’s purpose) wasn’t accurately described by ‘The Fart Thing.’ So, after waiting a few moments until the wind died down … a little, I started the process over again. Fortunately, this time the wind swirls stayed away and I was able to finish and lock the glass front down.
So, what does this have to do with my opening thought: What do you do when random events mess things up? First, we’ve got to stop and remember what our goal was before the event. My goal was to put up a message about God’s constant unwavering love. Second, we’ve got to decide whether to give up … or keep going. My sign situation was quite funny and would have had some interesting consequences if I’d quit at that point. Disaster victims aren’t in a funny situation – but they face the same kind of decision – remember what is important in life and then decide to give up or take an inventory of what’s possible and start again.
One of the reasons that God’s Grace is so vital to us is that, regardless of how tough things get – without regard to the random bad things that might occur – we know that God’s love for us will never change. It is available to us in the smile of a stranger, in the helping hands of a volunteer disaster relief worker, or in the flash of humor that can come suddenly even though the situation sucks. One older lady, while being interviewed on camera after the hurricane flooding forced her to flee, noted that the first floor of her house was under six feet of water. She then continued, “Well, I was going to de-clutter the house anyway.” Life matters. Love matters. Material stuff doesn’t matter.
Let’s give thanks for the love of God that is shown in the hands and feet of those responding to people in need. Let’s consider how we can help – in that way we become agents of God’s Grace expressing love for everyone. Just like Jesus.