When you're in the thick of it, perspective is thin. It's hard to see whether God is present, at work, or even aware. A shooting star, a friend's words, a holy pie chart - I find myself begging for a tangible sign whenever my anxiety is in charge.
I am in thick of it with a few folks right now. Visibility is only a few inches in front of their faces because life is harsh, choking out perspective. They fear making the wrong choice. They feel stuck. They can't figure out why God would keep quiet during all of this chaos. I don't know. I just don't know...They trail off and in the moment where silence sometimes turns into peace, they start up again. You can feel the hamster wheel in their brains kick up a breeze as they start analyzing again - their thoughts spin with futile urgency. They speak to me as though telling me creates special power or answers - that I might will change in their lives by using my emergency Kingdom of God contact on speed dial. I lean into their stories wishing for that same special power and answers to appear. I want perspective, too.
I'd spent plenty of time by the San Pedro River, which looks like a stink ditch, but the joke's on you. It draws from an aquifer and the valley is able to sustain large cottonwood trees. They look stately in the middle of the high desert. While I love the wide open, sandy spaces in Cochise County and the mountains that spooned my life on internship, I visited the San Pedro often. After all, a Minnesota girl needs her woods and shade every now and then.
When I saw the river valley from above, it took my breath away. Up close it looks like an accident - a hiccup in the landscape. But from the sky it told a story about our connection to Mexico, the hidden waters beneath the earth's surface, the local stewardship challenges, and the corner of the world in which Matt would soon propose marriage.
Pastors take some classes and training in regards to spiritual counseling, but we are not counselors by trade. We aim to be good listeners, speakers of God's promises, and tangible signs of God's presence. We point to the big things, we nod, and our hearts break with you. And then, if you need more than this, we refer you to our fabulous colleagues who are skilled to do much more.
Whenever I am listening and nodding and breaking, I think of this picture. I remember the two ways I saw and knew the San Pedro - dozens of times in front of my face and once from high above. And then I remember the way I saw it a third time when Matt popped the question there. It was a year of many choices - so many reasons to be anxious about messing things up. So many different forks in the road. So many reasons to wish for special power or answers about the future.
But the perspective - the stately birds' eye view - rarely comes when we need it and it never sticks around for too long. We make choices and then dive into the places they lead. We take risks and move forward. We let the uncertainties spill out so there can be room for other things that fill us up instead.
God, you are the way, the truth, and the life. Give us signs of your mercy and presence, hints of hope for the journey at hand. Make us courageous in sharing our heavy things and surround us with people willing to break along side us. And thank you for creating a world that defines abundant life beyond making the best choice or getting it right. Keep our eyes peeled and our hearts curious. Amen.