Monday, August 14, 2006

What? Me? Worry?















This weekend my wife and I visited the tiny St. Phillips in the Fields Episcopal Church in Sedalia, Colorado. Our reason for for making the drive was to visit our friend and mentor, Father Theron Walker who was previously the Vicar at Grace and St. Stephens where we attend but had recently taken on the position of Rector with St. Phillips.

There is no way to describe this church other than to use the word quaint. Built over 130 years ago, it is lucky to sit a hundred parishioners. The widows on each side overlook wooded hillsides dotted with the gravestones of families that go back more than five generations.

It was wonderful sitting under Theron's teaching once again. He was so clearly at home. Though a radically smaller church, the community had obviously embraced him as their own and his very demeanor spoke of a man at peace and even delighted with where God had placed him.

And yet God, as he so often does, had more in mind for us than simply seeing an old friend. Theron's homily seemed directed right at two people in the middle of the inevitable stress of making a massive life change.

He spoke of Maslow and his well-known Hierarchy of Needs. The need for comforting our physical bodies—shelter, food, water, air, health, etc. The need for love, acceptance, belonging, safety, security, etc. We would all be hard-pressed not to agree that Maslow was on to something when he listed the things that drive human beings.

And yet, from St. Luke 12: 22-34 Theron invoked the familiar words of Christ to his disciples:

“Do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today...will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.”

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't anxious...worried, if you will...about the impending move to New York. While it is something I cannot wait to undertake and look forward to with a sort of electrically-charged excitement, it is, nonetheless, a large and treacherous leap, full of unanswered questions, unseen steps and unresolved issues.

Christ's words, through Theron, were exactly what I needed to hear. If God is concerned about the well-being of plants and birds—obnoxious birds at that—how much more so is He interested in my well-being with its tedious journey, its lack of housing and employment and the opportunity/specter of graduate school.

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," Theron said, quoting a famished Christ when he was tempted with food in the desert.

Truth is, I haven't been dining on the words that proceed out of the mouth of God in some time now, nor have I been seeking His kingdom. The last few months have been fraught with activities, towering to-do lists, and last minute details. It's easy for me to let the most important things fall by the wayside. It's easy to tell myself I'm too busy. It's easy to make excuses.

Anyone can see the result of my neglect. I get angrier faster, am more irritable, less patient, more stressed. I have less grace and compassion for those around me. Worst of all, I behave like a jackass to my wife, at the very time when we need solidarity the most. I'm not saying that contemplative meditation is the cure all for my every dark side. But it does help keep the me I abhor at bay. And it does whittle away at it a bit more each year. Hopefully, at some point, probably far later in life, I'll look more like Christ than myself.

“Just what are those words that proceed out of the mouth of God?” Theron asked rhetorically. “St. John 1: 1-2 says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race...' The words of power. The words that spoke this world into being. The words of creation breathed from God while His spirit hovered over a naked universe. The words of creation breathed from God while His spirit hovered over a virgin girl named Mary. His spirit hovers still, His words sustaining you, me, everything you see and don't see. ”

And even me. Just a guy. And a girl. Moving to the big bad city. Excited and a bit scared. Simultaneously off on a grand adventure and an exercise in faith. That's probably just the way God wants it.

Doubtless Theron had some reservations those months ago when he left the stability, comfort and security of Grace and St. Stephens to helm a tiny church in a town no one had ever heard of. And yet it was clear to anyone looking at him that morning that he was right where he was supposed to be. Right where God wanted him.

I'm sure the transition was frightening. But then, most of the things in life worth doing usually are.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Nate said...

I agree with you completely. Ravens are pretty obnoxious birds.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

But if I act like a jackass to you, Nate, you deserve it!

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great catharsis!

Thanks

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon: Thank you for the article. Wow, what a blessing.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous RF said...

Dear Brandon:

Thank you for the lovely story that Father Walker was so kind to share with some in the parish. It warms my heart to see the words in writing. Father's speech reflected in my heart as it did yours and it is enlightening to see them written out by another. God does indeed have a plan for us, even if we can't see it in spit of ourselves. I can say this as I had the pleasure of having Father Walker come to my house on several occasions recently for pre-marriage counseling and performing our wedding on July 30th. As you can imagine the stresses of the details with a new wedding, a new home and a new job can not only take over the front seat, but at times lead the boat. However, like you, Father Walker's being in my life has helped me realize as you have that all will be well and as planned-by the word of God.

All of God's Blessings on you and your family. It was a pleasure to briefly meet you on Sunday. It is even more a pleasure to read your reflect.

Warmest Regards,

RF

5:23 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

The city ain't so bad...

(BTW -- Loving the process here...)

11:04 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

It's human nature to be feeling the things you are feeling. The anxiety, the stress....moving to New York from Colorado is huge, not to mention all the factors that come into play with such a life changing decisioon such as you have made.

If you didn't experience what you have so far I'd say you arent human =).

That being said it is reassuring and comforting to know that God always resides over things like this. If you weren't meant to be making this change then he opporunity would not have presented itself.

Have faith that you are doing the right thing, and are blessed simply by the opportunity to do so. The rest...well the challenges only make you appreciate it even more.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous G & G said...

THAT'LL PREACH! LOADS OF LOVE!

2:17 AM  
Blogger Alice Bass said...

And preach it did. Found you through Barb N.'s site & am grateful for the much needed sermon.

4:40 PM  

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