When we miss the end...
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
~ Matthew 7:13 - 14
I'm not sure what it was about this morning. Walking out, I was greeted by cool weather and a soft breeze that welcomed me. As I let the dogs out, my eyes were drawn to one of the trees in our back yard. "The leaves are gone," I said to myself. "How did I miss that?"
I will be the first to admit that I have not been myself for nearly two months now. I'm not sure if it is the new reality of living during a pandemic, or the fact that I live in a country that has just gone through one the most divisive political seasons since the Civil War. Perhaps it is because I am learning to live with a chronic pain condition, and that instead of waking up in the morning and beginning my day with my normal time of reflection and writing, I now begin the morning slowly pulling myself from my bed, trying to do some stretches that are to help with the pain, and then consider what today's "normal," will be. Whatever it is, this morning I realized that I seemed to have missed leaves that changed, and fell to the ground.
I feel as if I have become a backseat driver to my own life that seems to be driven by someone who looks like me, but does not see the road ahead as clearly as I once was did. The driver doesn't maneuver sharp turns as carefully as I would, or drive slower, when entering areas of my life where moments to reflect should overwhelm the need to push through. Speed bumps jar me, as I realize that I am not as prepared for the ups and downs as I encounter both hills and valleys. I want to get out of the backseat and place myself firmly behind the wheel, but I can't seem to get the driver's attention, and I feel trapped by this driver.
The leaves are gone, and I seemed to have missed the end of a season.
I readjust the chair that I am sitting on while I am typing, as I feel the pain once again, and I think to myself, I must remain in the driver's seat today.
I remember back to when I was married with young children at home while in grad school full time and working several jobs in order to keep afloat. My friends know that if you ask me any trivia questions that involve the decade of the 90's, I will not be able to answer them as this decade seems to be a blur in my life. I remember telling someone that my life was filled with "have to's" and it did not belong to me. It belonged to a person who was in the back seat, being driven by someone else.
I have to stop here for a moment, and let my mind catch up with my hands. You see, I realize that I am sharing what we all know something about. When I was a child I remember telling my grandmother that I was "bored." I can still see her face, her eyes, gazing at me as if I had just blurted a word that would guarantee the taste of Ivory liquid soap in my mouth in the morning after having had it washed out the night before. She said, "People who say that they are bored, are boring people. You don't ever want to be one of those."
I realize that we all are afraid to slow down. We surrender ourselves to the backseat of our life time and time again. Our health begins to suffer. Relationships are strained, and we forget to take the time to reflect, dream, and embrace the life that God, not the world, has for us. For many, it is not until you find yourself pounding on the window of the backseat door, that you realize that you have lost the ability to stop.
I hear the words of Jesus, "Peace I give to you. My peace, I leave with you," followed by the Psalmist, reminding, "Surely peace and mercy shall follow after you."
I am comforted to know that if I surrender all these things that I am feeling, and the perceived expectations of a world that is full of people riding in the back seat, that I will still hear the words, "My good and faithful servant, welcome home," when I reach my real destination.
That when I realize that I have missed a season, not to beat myself up because I missed it, but rather, remind myself that I need to be more gentle and kind to myself in the coming days and weeks. Most of all, to remember that I didn't get in the backseat overnight. It came with moments when I decided to surrender to the expectations of a world that fails to yield, or to slow down, for those of us who really would prefer a different road that takes us closer to where God would really like for us to be.
Stay in your lane, and in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Though we only met briefly years ago at Elizabeth's installation, I feel we are kindred spirits because of Westminster. I hope they are taking good care of you on this journey, and that your pain ebbs quickly. I enjoy your writing very much. I wonder how much we will all find we've missed as we emerge from this season of covid. I am thankful that God will have been working whether we see it or not. May you know God's nearness and peace always.
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.