September is supposed to be the kick-off season of the church. It is to be the time of frenetic activity. And like all churches, I had my own schedule of activity mapped out before me. It would be a time of casting the vision, and entering into it enthusiastically. We were, in my mind, poised to ‘hit the ground running.’
And then the snow happened. Did I mention that I thoroughly dislike the snow. Personally, I feel that there is divine reason why ‘snow’ is a four letter word. Just when I felt rejuvenated from some time-off, when I felt energized and excited about going ahead as planned, everything came to stand-still. The city of Calgary experienced loss of power in almost every section of the city. Trees cracked under the unexpected weight. With no warnings, the plans I had set before me came to a screeching halt.
My first appointment today, taking my son to school, was cancelled. That was followed by cancelling the the service I was to lead today. My meetings were postponed, as well as the study time I had set aside. The work of ministry I had planned, the times of worship I was counting on, and my time of quiet learning were no more.
In his book “Prayer”, Richard Foster tells a story wherein the scratches of a cat distract a group from their devotional task. Foster had been invited to a home-group with the aim of leading the members into a time of listening and meditation. As this time of silent devotion got underway, the house owner’s cat began to scratch at the screen door. Accompanying this was a mournful wail from the cat as the scratching was ignored in favour of more spiritual matters. After the time of prayer, many of the members began to describe how distracting the noise of the cat had been to their prayers. One individual, ‘Bill,’ however had a different take on the situation:
“I kept wondering what God was trying to say to us through the cat.”
From our perspective, it is easy to see certain things as frustrations. Things get in the way of the orderly plans that we set for ourselves. The snow fall; the cat’s cry; things unexpected tear us away from our vain attempt of mastery over our time and our own abilities. Foster tells this story to illustrate how the ‘wrong kind of attention’ can frustrate our spiritual endeavours. This anecdote illustrates this quite well, for the frustration of the group is based solely on their decision to connect with God in a certain way – which of course would then produce certain divine results in return. Instead of entering a place of listening, waiting upon the activity of God, they sat in frustrated silence hoping that the cat would be shut up.
Its easy to be frustrated when things don’t go our way, when we see these instances of pointless and meaningless. When unexpected events are seen as interruptions to that which ‘should happen’ during the day, it is easy to enter into these times in frustrated abhorrence.
So what’s the point? Maybe I need to hear a lesson about putting down my expectations. As much as I like to say that I am open to God’s movement in my life, do I depend too much on how I think things should occur? Maybe God is leading me into a day of grace. Maybe instead of frustration, I should match my son’s enthusiasm at being home from school with my own enthusiasm for being home from work. After all, it is a rarely do my son, my wife, and myself have a mid-week break where we can drink hot-chocolate and play games together. Maybe I should hear a rebuke to my own sense of arrogant planning – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding”; or “Instead you ought to say ‘If The Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”; or perhaps “You are worried and distracted by many things.”
Maybe this is just just a day of beauty – a day of rest, a day where God removes us from the expected and planned in order to birth in us new songs and make us into new wineskins.
Maybe the point in all of this is to not be frustrated with the snow – for in my frustration with what I cannot change, I inevitably take my attention away from the presence of God in my life. The presence of snow, or the lack thereof, should really have no bearing on my spiritual disposition. After all, we do not pray ‘thy will be done on earth in good weather, as it is heaven.’ My rising to live this day with God, my desire to do the will of God and be open to His spirit, should be the same regardless if I wear sneakers or snow-boots.
If this is the day that The Lord has made, I should rejoice and be glad in it – and that which it brings.