The City of Blinding Lights
Last night Miss Mary and I took the kiddos to IHOP for dinner. As we sat munching on funny face pancakes and omelets, it started snowing outside, big, fat flakes. This type of weather is unusual for the Pacific Northwest in March, a month typically heavy with rain and discontent. We drove home through the slush, put the kids to bed, and sat up watching sitcoms on Netflix.
This morning when I got up, I could see through a gap in the window blind the shadowy white of snow on branches in the backyard. Mary was already up, and I asked her to open the blind further, but she hesitated.
“No, look through the windows on the other side of the house,” she said with a smile. “The sun’s already shining over there.”
On the other side of the house, this is what I saw.
I went downstairs to my office and turned on my computer. Checked news and e-mail and a couple of blogs. Then I cracked open Facebook, and learned that the wife of a longtime friend had just died.
I haven’t been in contact with this friend for several years, as it often the case with Facebook. But I could see from his pictures how his wife, when she was alive, was as brilliant as a field of wildflowers. She died from some evil ailment that stole everything precious.
I couldn’t cope with this news. I think sometimes when you grieve, you grieve for everything you’ve ever grieved for. So I laced up my boots, stole quietly out of the house, and went for a walk over the big hill that’s nearby.
How overwhelming the world is this morning, I thought. Buck Compton passed away last week. Then my Facebook friend’s wife. I know several other close friends who are battling cancer right now—either them or their loved ones. In the news there are tornadoes ripping the legs off young mothers in the Midwest. Children are starving in Somalia.
It’s too much.
What do you do when you feel full? Where do you turn? What keeps you going forward?
As I walked in the icy wilderness, I thought of something a mentor, Darrell Smith, told me years ago. I was working as a waiter throughout graduate school, and a job opening came up to be a youth pastor. I had never wanted to work in a church, but I felt this strange tugging in my insides that this was a direction I needed to go. I asked Darrell for advice.
“Remember who you are at the core,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a waiter or a youth pastor or an author like you want to be someday. The essential ‘you’ will be the same, no matter what your circumstances.”
What’s this “core” all about?
Jesus said only two things ultimately matter in life—loving God and loving people.
That’s what our cores are all about. No matter what we do for a living, no matter what news comes our way, no matter life’s circumstances, we keep going because we’re worshippers and ministers—in the broadest senses of the words. That’s always the invitation. To love God and to love others.
On mornings like today, when there is heaviness in hearts, somehow that thought brings perspective.
Things will be overwhelming, yes. But the call is to keep caring for people the best way we can.
Then, there is comfort in the thought that another world exists.
And in that world, the sun is already up and shining.