Friday, June 03, 2011

Death and Other Miscreants

For the last month and a half, I've been working an overnight shift, stocking shelves at America's Largest Organic Retailer. I like the work, but not the schedule. I have learned that staying up all night is not as easy as it was when I was 22 (the last time I worked an overnight shift), and that as the night progresses, I become a little more free. When the sun starts to come up, I become a bit more uninhibited. I sing along to the muzak. I say things I wouldn't normally say. I clapped my hands when a song with clapping in it played on my mp3 player. Fatigue will make you become a slightly different person. Up all night, sleep all day.

I opened up Facebook today and saw death. A dear friend of ours from one of our churches where we served passed away on Monday. His funeral was today. There was a lot of discussion about that, of course. Two other friends mentioned the passing of their fathers: one three years ago, one sixteen years ago. Dr. Jack Kevorkian also died today, apparently. I then found a link from the AV Club with a picture of the tombstone of Leslie Nielsen. O, death. Won't you spare me over to another year.

There is also a lot of rebirth in the air, I suppose. I've been interviewing with churches, and making trips to visit them. I've got a couple of friends who are doing the same. I know some people who are moving, making life changes. We had some unpleasant, private news on the same day we had some great news. Heck, it's the end of spring, after all. It is the season for that sort of thing. Get up, get out, spring is everywhere.

My wife said something I thought was profound, and I immediately agreed. She felt like our break from church ministry has been a vacation from our life. I feel the same way. You know those vacations when you go visit family because you haven't seen them in a while, and you basically just stay around their house for a week because you don't have any money to do anything else? feels exactly like that. A year of that. While working a job. Vacation, gotta get away.

Remember the fatigue I mentioned earlier? And the death? And the change? It's all happening at the same time. In real time, even for us personally. We're hoping to go on to a next chapter in life. It looks a lot like an earlier chapter, except that we are very different people: more confident, less worried, more appreciative, less upset, more at peace. We know, from our earlier discussion on death, that a next chapter is not promised, not guaranteed. But, we also know that change is a constant, if indeed another chapter is given. Change is hard.

At the same time, we question more. We speak out more. We know what we want. We also know what we can't have. That's part of being a grown up, you know. Not as many Twix bars, a few more carrot sticks. Easy on the impulse buying, and slowly building up the savings. You have to think more when you get older. You can't rely on youth and time to carry you through. You have to plan, prepare and discuss. Get me ready for it.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." (Proverbs 16:9) We often take comfort in the idea that someone else is in control. But it can be frustrating, too. The concept of the "unknown" has kept humans writing books and songs, making outrageous claims and generally running scared for as long as there has been people. Paul tells us this: "The Lord is near. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:5a-7) He never says that god will grant those prayers and petitions. He never promises that He will tell us what we want to know. He says God will guard your hears and minds with His peace. That's God's reaction to our asking: not giving us what we wanted, but giving us what we needed: peace of mind.

I'm not going to pretend like I'm totally happy with that all the time. I get it, though. It is very much like eating carrots instead of Twix, or dropping a hundred bucks in a savings account instead of on a new record player (yes, that's right, a RECORD PLAYER!). It's grownup time in the Kingdom. When I have to eat my vegetables, when I have to work the overnight shift, when I have to go through the death of people I love, I don't need more stuff, or a better situation or money: I need peace. The peace that surpasses all understanding. I need it all to be okay in me. Give me love, give me...peace.