Yesterday one of my friends asked me if I had time to meet with him. My answer basically reflects one of the core struggles of my life at this moment. I had a similar discussion with my daughter this morning. She seems to be following in the footsteps that I’m modeling.
There is an overwhelming number of things constantly calling for my attention. And it’s really easy for me to believe that I’m the only one that can handle them. That if I don’t react immediately, and correctly, everything will fall apart.
I often feel a bit like a protagonist in one of Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse shows. Bad things are happening, the city — even the world — is falling apart and <the hero> is the only person who can possibly save the day. And they will do whatever it takes, sacrificing relationships, and working themselves to the bone to accomplish their mission.
If you haven’t seen the Last Jedi, I’m about to give away some significant elements of the plot. Consider yourself warned.
In the film, Poe Dameron is in a similar position. He sees himself as the only person capable of — or perhaps the only person willing to — rescue the rebel alliance from peril. But there’s a problem with his belief system. His commanding officer, Vice Admiral Holdo, tells him to stand down. She has a plan. She will take care of things. He just needs to trust her.
The trouble is, he can’t see that she’s doing anything…
This is my problem as well. I’m not trying to save the world, I’m just trying to make a movie, but I believe it’s important. God keeps telling me to trust him. He has a plan. He will take care of things. But…
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Poe doesn’t listen. He decides that he’s the only one that can save everyone, and hatches an ill-fated plan to throw his friends into danger and eventually a lot of the people he’s trying to save are killed. It’s not clear that Holdo’s plan would necessarily have worked better. But the implication is strong.
That’s what I told my friend yesterday. I didn’t feel like I had time, but I needed to remind myself that I’m not the savior, Jesus already did that. Making time for friends and relationships is important. Talking with my daughter this morning, and sharing that her struggles are real and that I’m experiencing them as well, that’s important. Sitting down to write this blog today… also important.
I can’t make this movie single-handedly. In fact, I probably can’t make it at all. But my God, the creator of the universe, can do whatever he wants. He told me to do this. So I’m giving it my all. But I have to remember that it doesn’t depend on me. I’m not the only one who can make this work.
My title may be misleading. Poe Dameron is almost certainly not a Christian. But his struggle is a fundamental one for many believers, I think. How do we trust God when things aren’t all going well? When we feel overwhelmed? And it looks like trusting him is a recipe for failure?
I believe that God is trustworthy. Now I just have to live that belief.
Today was one of those days. I took major steps on three major, life-altering projects that crisscross my work and personal lives but are all completely separate.
I won’t lie: I’m overwhelmed. My world is spinning out of control. A lot of it is good. Or at least has the potential to be good. But it’s also horribly scary.
The repercussions of failure in any of these projects would be really crushing.
I feel a bit like a juggler, who has just thrown one too many balls in the air and knows he can’t catch them all, but is determined to maintain the show as long as he can.
Thats how I feel, but it isn’t the reality.
I was reading a post written by a friend earlier today, and she was talking about how she can tell when her family is doing something really important because everything in their lives flies apart in this wild chaotic mess. Because there is a real enemy that wants us to fail. Not if we’re living a trivial life, focused on ourselves. But if we’re stepping out faithfully to do God’s will, we should expect profound opposition. And it will manifest in all corners.
So I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I can’t even take the next step. But the feeling is a lie. Here’s the truth:
I’m not taking the next step alone. God is with me. That isn’t a platitude. I’m not delusional. The most powerful being in the entire universe is in my corner.
All I have to do is take that next step and trust that he’s taking it with me, working all the angles, clearing the path, and making it work. He’s done it before. In fact, he’s done it every other time.
Stepping into the chaos is going to hurt. It won’t be easy. And at each step forward, I’m probably going to face all these same doubts. But I’m not alone. I’m not in charge. I’m not the one who will make it all work. I’m just going on the journey.
Whatever you’re facing, don’t face it alone. Let Jesus walk it with you.
“This is awful.”
Isaac and I drove home in virtual silence. The disappointments were mounting. After getting accepted to his first choice college, Isaac had been unable to go. It was just too expensive, in spite of his numerous scholarships from the school and even one from a local church. Now he was waiting on his second choice school but it would be months yet.
We’d just put Brandy and Faith on a plane back to Germany, but finances had forced me to stay behind. I had no return ticket. No plan for when I could go home. We were both stuck in limbo.
“Heard back on any of your job applications?” I asked.
He just shook his head. The pneumonia had interfered with all of his plans. No friends. No job.
“Maybe next week we can drive out to Barclay.” The tiny college I’d graduated from in Kansas was hovering in the number 3 or 4 slot on Isaac’s list. “Have a little father/son road trip.”
Isaac smiled softly. “That’d be fun, Pa.”
While I was trying to line up appointments for my extended stay, I texted admissions over the weekend and setup accommodations for us Monday night and a tour Tuesday morning. So, after a long slow weekend, the two of us set out for Kansas.
A six hour trip quickly became eight. As we neared the tiny town of Haviland (population 703), a big sign reading “I’d turn back if I were you” seemed almost prophetic. The town was so small, we drove right past it and had to turn around, but we found the school.
18 hours later we were back in the car driving home.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“As plan B,” Isaac answered, “I would be happy to go there.”
The next morning dawned bleakly. I had no new appointments.
“Dear Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t know what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it this way… Help me. Please, Lord. You’re always there when I need you. I know you’re hearing me now. What do I do?”
When I’d finished praying, I walked upstairs to see Isaac. He looked like I felt.
He’d been waiting for today since his arrival. He was to audition for the church music team, but the leader couldn’t make it and they would have to reschedule. He felt a bit like the only thing he was looking forward to had been taken away. Both of us sat looking at one another in shared commiseration. We felt hopeless. I started talking, trying to suggest activities that Isaac might enjoy, and all of the sudden, he sat bolt upright, his eyes lighting up.
“What?” I asked.
He started to slump immediately. “Nothing.” He said. “It’s crazy. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I smirked. “None of this makes sense.” I said, “Let’s hear it.”
“What if I just go to Barclay right now? This semester.” he replied. “But, then I’d have to take out loans and it… it’s just crazy.”
I was glad that he was leery of loans, but I knew they’d be very small in this case, so I told him to go ahead and submit the application and I’d get started on finances.
The rest of the week was a whirlwind. Isaac submitted his application Wednesday, was accepted Thursday and we were back in Kansas moving him into his dorm on Saturday. Everything seemed like a perfect fit. By the time I was driving back to Colorado on Sunday afternoon, Isaac was on the soccer team, had found a good church, scheduled an audition for the worship band and was joining the school choir. I could see God’s hands all over this moment that was tailored precisely for my son.
The next morning, I was back in a darker place.
“Yes, Lord, it’s clear to me I needed to be here to help Isaac step into the amazing plan you have, but,” I whined vigorously, “I’m still stuck here — no closer to having the money raised!”
The foolishness of it, the ingratitude is embarrassing, but I’m being honest.
Between fruitless attempts to raise money, I tried to contact the finance office at Barclay. Isaac was in classes, but I still didn’t know how much the bill would be. I expected we’d need an additional $3000-4000 to be paid over the remainder of the year. Finally, I got the finance guy on the phone.
“I’ve got all Isaac’s info here, I just have to put it into the system.” He told me.
I listened to his clicking keys for several minutes. Then came the big number.
“First semester,” He informed “Isaac will owe $1247 and $1248 next semester.”
I got payment instructions and we agreed to talk again the next day. As I hung up the phone, I got thinking about Isaac’s church scholarship. I called them on the phone.
“Yes. Isaac has already talked with us, we’re directing the scholarship to Barclay.”
The scholarship was $1250 a semester. I was floored. Here I was, questioning God and his plan, his ability even to work out our convoluted finances. But God had known all along, where Isaac would end up and how much it would cost. He’d arranged it all perfectly from the beginning, though we’d been unable to see it until all the pieces came together.
It’s still hard to contemplate our financial situation. But I’ve been powerfully reminded just how good and generous our God can be, when we’re seeking him and walking in his will. It’s not that getting there wasn’t difficult. Of course, it was. There were powerful moments of hopelessness and despair. And yet, God delivered on such a sweeping scale. How can I not have confidence in his plans for our ministry and financial provision? Praise the Lord!