Monday Matters (January 27th, 2014)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, January 27, 2014

Curve balls.

Last Friday, I did my best to fly to a Vestry Retreat near Sewanee to talk about the new work I’m doing with Forward Movement, work having to do with spiritual growth. I got to the airport at 6:00am, about an hour and half early, just to make sure I was on board. Before long, I heard the news delivered cheerfully over the p.a. system, informing us that the night before, someone had left the battery on. The plane would not start, and would not be leaving, oh, for a while. The upshot was that there would be no upshot any time soon. Again, the chipper delivery of the news added to my irritation. After a long time on long lines and not a few phone conversations, I was rerouted. I spent a whole lot of time in various airports and arrived late and frazzled for the retreat. My irritated disposition made my upcoming presentation about spiritual growth seem thin. I was keenly aware of my personal growth opportunities. And I was ashamed of myself when I reflected on stories of fellow passengers, including a couple who would miss their daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner, a sister who would be the only sibling not able to attend a funeral.

The next day, I got to the airport allowing plenty of time before my return flight, eager to get home early enough to get a good night’s sleep. We were about to load the plane when the woman behind the counter came on the p.a. and cheerfully let us know that the flight would be delayed several hours because there was some mechanical difficulty. They’d let us know if and when it would all be corrected. That’s all. Standing on a long line to rebook, I turned to the man behind me, who had never been on a plane before. We shrugged shoulders. I said: “Serenity prayer.” He nodded knowingly.

For me, at least on this occasion, a delayed flight is what my kids call a rich person problem. It’s an inconvenience of minor proportion, a curve ball but mostly inconsequential. It hardly qualifies as hardship. As my wise wife would advise, I should breathe. I wish I was spiritually evolved enough to hear her voice, or for that matter, to embrace what I espouse, which is that the Serenity Prayer is the way to approach moments like this.

It’s ironic to me that as I’m flying around talking to clergy and lay leaders about spiritual growth, an inconvenient airline delay brings turbulence to my spiritual equilibrium. Coping with airline travel is a persistent growth edge for me. I’ve got lessons to learn for sure. It is a parable for how to navigate circumstances beyond our control, knowing that life happens instead of what we plan. What’s your growth edge?

This Monday, as you go about your day guided by your to-do list, chances are something will happen to scramble that list. Forces beyond your power may mock a carefully crafted agenda for the day, the week, the year. Some of those forces will be significant, maybe even tragic. Some will simply be inconvenient. What will it take for you to breathe through them? To see them in perspective. To trust that all will be well. To be thankful for what you have. To see today as a gift. To view curve balls as opportunities, and not as cosmic conspiracy. To learn from the moment.

We never know what’s coming. But we are not left alone. In it all, we are beloved. I wish I could really and always remember that. All will be well. A flight delay, or some other innocuous interruption, may be just the thing to remind us  of that truth. Are we learners?

– Jay Sidebotham 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to his will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next. 


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.

1 thought on “Monday Matters (January 27th, 2014)

  1. Randall Day

    The variation on your kids’ phrase that I’ve heard is: “it’s a first-world problem.”
    Most of my “problems” are of that nature.
    And it reminds me that the vast majority of humans make no choices whatsoever. They only survive.
    In that airport you and I can choose to have coffee or tea in the swarm of anxious, under-functioning people in which we have chosen to place ourselves.
    I can just imagine someone on that garbage dump in Mexico City looking at me quizzically and saying: “you had a choice and you chose that?” (The airport, not the tea.)

    Yesterday as I was leaving for the more-or-less idiotic exercise of a church annual meeting in that all-too-familiar fog that comes from anxious over-functioning I had the grace of consciousness to hear the phrase: “This day is not going to go the way you think it will. It will not.”
    Usually when I hear that I’m reminded of earthquakes or wild fires or someone near and dear keeling over – and how those things not only derail us but we can’t even remember what “urgent” task we were intending to do when the reality presented itself.
    And sure enough, the day did not go the way I thought it would – but there was no catastrophe. It was simply different. It was what it really was, not what was running through my mind in that pre-dawn light when I was starting out to (truly) who-knows-what.
    Every day I really don’t know who I’m going to talk to, what I’m going to say, how it is all going to fit together, what the moonrise will look like. I just don’t. Ever.

    Let’s breathe a lot. Every day.
    I’m sure that is the very most important choice I can make.

    We will have the world as it is.
    That’s the only way God gives it to us – whether we’re awake or not.

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