Reflections to start the week
Monday, June 9, 2014
More than we could ask or imagine
Last week, I attended a conference called Eformation2014 at Virginia Seminary. It was a gathering of church folk who met to talk about how new technologies, and especially social media, might change and enhance the way we do church. Since the Episcopal Church in terms of generational constituency is more Boomer than Millennial, the conference focused on how we bring folks who didn’t grow up with ipads and smart phones into the conversation, how we work with people who are immigrants (e.g., me), not natives (e.g., my kids) to the digital world. All of which reminded me a woman named Shirley, who taught me some important lessons.
A woman in her late 70’s, maybe older, Shirley lived in a local retirement community, and let us all know at church that her loneliness was a source of deep, prolonged unhappiness. There was, truth be told, a contagious, maybe infectious quality to her unhappiness. She shared it prodigiously, even imposed it, wherever she went. Note: This only exacerbated her loneliness. Shirley confessed to me at one point that she was not going to be able to come to church any more on Sunday mornings. Her arthritis made the task of getting ready for church too arduous, too protracted. She would have to get up way too early. So she stopped showing up at Sunday worship.
On one of my visits to her home, I noticed that Shirley’s spirits seemed a bit lifted. She told me that students from a local university were coming each week to her retirement community to introduce her and her friends to computers, showing them how to get online. Well before Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram, Shirley found herself making connections with people of her age and in her station in various chat rooms. She was meeting people around the country.
Shirley reported on one visit that she had made a friend online, a gentleman from Texas, someone exactly her age. She spoke about how they had developed a friendship, how much they had in common, and how they arranged for regular times to converse. Just the way she talked about it revealed to me that some of the unhappiness had abated. Before long, I received a call that this gentleman was going to come to visit, that they were going to meet in person, that he was, in fact driving his motorcycle almost 1000 miles for this visit. Shirley was nervous and excited. I glimpsed a teenage girl anticipating a prom date. I mentioned that I’d like to meet her friend. Maybe that was a little parental. Maybe I was a little worried.
Lo and behold, a few weeks later, I looked out my office window. Up the driveway came a Harley, with Shirley on the back, she and her new friend in matching motorcycle helmets and metallic jumpsuits. I walked out to greet them. Shirley said they had to hit the road. They were off for several days to ride the Blue Ridge Highway. Her arthritis didn’t seem to be getting in the way. As I write this, I’m realizing it could sound sketchy, maybe creepy. In real life, it seemed beautiful. These two didn’t get married, but they did begin a friendship that seemed to make them both pretty happy. Not bad.
Imagine sermon titles from this story: The virtues of connectivity. Never stop learning. Love conquers all. Feel free to submit your suggestions. Maybe the lesson this Monday morning has to do with new possibility. I imagine we can all imagine parts of our story that we imagine could never change, which I imagine could make us all cranky. When we think like that, when we get locked in that story, when we get in that loop, when that tape keeps playing (pick your favorite cliché) our faith reminds us that we are resurrection people, that a little Easter is celebrated every Sunday, that the gospel is in fact good news because it tells us that dead ends become thresholds. Maybe this Monday can be a threshold for you.
– Jay Sidebotham
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.
“How do I get rid of the fear?” Alas, this is the wrong question. The only way to get rid of the fear is to stop doing things that might not work, to stop putting yourself out there, to stop doing work that matters. No, the right question is, “How do I dance with the fear?” Fear is not the enemy. Paralysis is the enemy.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.