I am always “walking into” things, not being sure what I’m going to encounter. You are too. (Imagine an automatic sliding door that opens before you as you walk toward it…but there are no windows through which you may have an advance warning of what to expect.) As a pastor, I make hospital visits, and as I go I often don’t know how bad the health report is, what the person’s state of mind will be, who else will be there. I meet someone for coffee, even someone I know, and there’s so much I don’t know in advance about the landscape of the person’s life, either externally or internally. I do a funeral service and three quarters of the room is people I don’t know, whose lives I know nothing about. And in three and a half weeks I’m supposed to get on an enormous Airbus and fly to the other side of the world, to a nation very different from mine, to interact with dozens of people I don’t know at all.
This is true for all of us, in varying ways—you go into your work day not knowing what awaits you, what will go wrong today. You don’t know who will call to say what. You don’t know which kid will have what crisis today. From the momentous to the trivial, we respond to things all day long.
Here is what I’m finding transformative: a growing understanding that this is God’s world, that He is at work in it in billions of ways I know nothing about. I don’t need to manage a situation, I don’t need to control it. I don’t need to manipulate people. He is sovereign, he is good, and he is already there, wherever I am going. He has his people in so many places, interwoven into society, being salt and light; it does not all depend on me. (I am always so glad to hear about the places you work, the places you live and drink coffee and go to the gym and play soccer and go to school…)
One of my teachers in this has been Eugene Peterson, a pastor’s pastor. This is from his book, Under the Predictable Plant:
There is a text for this work in St. Mark’s Gospel: “He has risen…he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you” (16:6-7). In every visit, every meeting I attend, every appointment I keep, I have been anticipated. The risen Christ got there ahead of me. The risen Christ is in that room already. What is he doing? What is he saying? What is going on?
It is so helpful to me to relax and trust the Spirit, to be unafraid and willing to roll with whatever is before me. There’s lots I don’t know. He knows it all intimately. He doesn’t need me, but he invites me (and you) to participate with him in what he is already doing. And in some ways, though he is already there, we bring him wherever we go, in a deeper way—because he lives in us.