Have you had a plan that fell apart due to circumstances you couldn’t avoid?
I came back from vacation with a plan for when and how I would sermon prep, visit, write notes, make phone calls, write blogs. I had a plan and a list and a new week at work.
When I arrived at the church I found out that instead of my “pastor” hat, I needed to wear my “church facilities” hat and work with a contractor about some leaks in our roof. I made the day of one of my volunteers when he was able to go up in a lift to look at the roof. (We decided my dress and heels were a bad idea up in the lift!)
As I watched them figure out how to save us money and develop a plan to keep the water out of an old building (I wish visitors wanted to be in the building as much as the water does!!!), I realized I could complain about this interruption or I could make the most of it. As I stood there watching it, I snapped a photo and thought about the blog I would write on interruptions.
Little did I know that I would have a much bigger interruption.
The same day as I was dealing with this, my beloved brother-in-law, David, was being admitted into the hospital for pneumonia. Just ten days later he would be gone. Talk about a massive, life altering interruption.
I had come back from vacation with more than half a dozen blogs sketched out, with amazing photos, but all of them were put on hold while we waited and prayed and grieved and celebrated David. None seemed to make sense. Even this one on interruptions was difficult because…well, there are no words.
My plan did not include writing about how God uses interruptions that includes the interruption of the death of a loved one. While I have spent about 35 hours in the car since his death driving to and from Virginia and Alabama, I have composed so many blogs in my head that were almost eulogies for how he lived his life. While I am very hesitant to write a blog about this, I can’t not. I can’t not stop and reflect on where I am at this moment, knowing that I will be somewhere else emotionally and mentally in a few hours or days. I have to at least start to get some of what I am learning written down.
Twenty five years ago my husband and I learned from his sister and her husband, Connie and David, how to “do” a crisis when David was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I watched them bring God right in the mix of how to “do” cancer and a bone marrow transplant and a major crisis while claiming the promises of Jesus. I witnessed how they saw Jesus in daily interactions, kindnesses and thoughtfulness—instead of just receiving, they were giving—constantly pointing people to Jesus in the midst of their pain and uncertainty. They didn’t use this as an excuse for being sloppy in their witnessing to God’s work in their lives. They didn’t use their stress to excuse impatience, unkindness, or even a lack of faith or joy. They taught me how to beg God for an answer, AND trust God with the answer, regardless of the outcome.
Watching that was life changing for me, for my walk with God, my marriage, my ministry. I learned that if we are looking, that God absolutely will work in the midst of pain and suffering and worry and grief. It was real and I can claim it from personal experience.
God is indeed glorified when people show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control when they are fighting for their lives. God is real. The Holy Spirit is powerful.
Fast forward through countless vacations, working together, living in the same neighborhood, loving on each other’s children—their faithfulness and intentionality continued in big and small ways—God continued to use them as role models in my life.
First was the interruption of being in the ICU waiting room. Now I am experiencing the countless interruptions of memories, grief bursts, deep sadness, questions, and the inexplicable joy of knowing God is right here. I get interrupted with glimpses of how God is not going to waste this pain. God is going to use this pain in my life to make me a better pastor and wife and mother and friend and caregiver. God is using this pain to pull me closer in prayer.
God. Is. Using. This.
I can see how if I work with God, even this horrible, terrible, no-good interruption can be redeemed by God and used to help others.
God is using this pain to show me that my plan is not the best plan. The best plan is to follow God, wherever that may be, even into the middle of an interruption.
God is showing me the grace in the interruptions. The opportunities in the interruptions. Yeah, the interruptions can absolutely stink. Yet, if we look, we can often see God even more clearly in the interruptions, at work in the interruptions.
I want to be the kind of person who uses interruptions to remember to look for God to make sure that I am not so focused on my plan that I am missing his. This interruption has had a very high cost and I don’t want to waste one tiny bit of what I can learn from it, and I want to honor this interruption by letting God maximize it in my life.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. (Romans 8:18-29, NRSV)
Rev. Shannon Jordan is the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Decatur, AL To receive notifications when there is a new post click on the menu at the top right, scroll down and enter your email where indicated.