Tumbling in the Sand
Things haven’t been easy of late. Stuff that was supposed to move forward has ground to a stop. Things that weren’t supposed to happen did. There has been silence where I thought speech was supposed to be and conversations where I kind of longed for silence. And it’s been winter, which never is easy for me—though, it doesn’t seem as bad this year as in the past, which is odd since everyone else seems more frustrated about it than usual.
I’ve probably taken it all harder than I should have. And I’ve certainly pushed when I should have sat still and done nothing where I should have been at work. I guess I resonate well with the confession in the liturgy ” … We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone …” I’m glad that it is Lent, where confession and contrition is expected and absolution is longed for … and even granted.
In the midst of all of this, I have been puzzling about God and what God is up to. I don’t tend to be one of these people who thinks everything that happens is God’s will—actually, I really don’t think that at all—but, I do tend to think that God is up to things; that God is active; that God does stuff and makes stuff out of even our most broken things. As a result, I puzzle about what God is up to these days.
So, I suppose, I was prepared to notice when I got stopped on the way out of a funeral on Thursday late afternoon. I was just attending. The person who stopped me noted my clerical collar and asked me which church I was the pastor at (I don’t normally wear a clerical collar to a funeral, but I was attending as a pastor so felt somewhat like I ought to wear it—things pastors think about). It turned out that the man who stopped me was the son of a former pastor of Immanuel (one of the congregations that I served—it just consolidated with Salem to make Grace, which I now serve, so figuring out how to describe this is confusing tense-wise). Anyway, it was an odd conversation. One where he said things that I needed to hear while he would have had no idea that I needed to hear them. And then, while we were talking, a deer walked by.
Yes, a deer walked by.
And suddenly I was reminded of the last time I was muttering to God about things not working out well and wondering what God was up to.
It’s sort of complicated to explain what was going on — basically, there are lots of steps and hoops that people go through to become a pastor in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and despite all my best efforts to follow the rules, I had been diverted from the “usual” path toward ordination—again. Most of my friends and colleagues with whom I had gone to seminary were already getting calls to congregations as pastors and I was left sitting on the sidelines—or, at least feeling like I was. I was pretty frustrated and crestfallen.
In the course of events, I was out walking on a rarely-walked trail around a semi-wild/semi-developed park in the middle of Fairfield, CT. I was mostly not paying attention to what was going on around me while I distractedly questioned God about what in the world God was up to and why did I need to take the longer way and was there anything for me at all or was I doing something all wrong … and I looked up and there was a deer.
Mind you, not just any deer—a huge ten-point buck. He was standing there, in a wide, shallow stream, looking directly at me, the setting sun streaming down around him, the dust from the fall leaves turning the light to gold.
As I caught my breath and stood there watching the buck, it became strikingly clear to me that sometimes it was the less-travelled path by which one experienced the presence of God. A stillness settled in around me for the first time in forever.
When I finally broke our mutual gaze and turned to walk down the trail (because the buck never moved), I felt calmed by the holy.
Well, I wasn’t clear about what God was up to then (though, things worked out—well even), and I’m still not sure what God is up to now. But, I am more content to wait to see what will be. After all, God has this crazy habit of showing up and surprising me, like a deer walking by a funeral.
Featured Image: “Deer” by memougler Found at Deviant Art here: http://memougler.deviantart.com/art/Deer-371189634