They’ve been everywhere around town these past few weeks, and they are a nuisance. Those crews trimming the tree branches from around the power lines. Right in the middle of the street, the street I’d planned on taking to get to where I need to go, they park their lift trucks and chippers. Oh, they put out a few orange cones, but the streets of the township and borough are narrow enough without this. We’re left to our own devices and the courtesy, or lack thereof, of our fellow motorists to get by and get through. They’re a nuisance, and I need to get to where I’m going.
I need to get where I’m going. The next appointment, the quick errand I’d really like to be quick. Hey, I’m a pastor; one of my parishioners is in the hospital and I need to get to where I’m going.
Of course, we all know it: the aesthetics and artistry of their work aside, those tree trimming crews are doing good work for us. The branches that are trimmed and chipped this summer may be the branches that won’t come down on the power lines some cold night next winter. The thirty seconds I wait for the single lane to clear so I can get on my way to where I am going is a small price to pay for avoiding thirty hours of no power in January.
I think there’s a parable here. Hey, I’m a preacher; it’s how I think.
Too often, where I think I need to get is just what’s next on the list. The next call or the next appointment, the next store or the next game. The next meeting or the next sermon. Sometimes the nexts line up for as far as my eye can see and I know I need to keep moving if I’m going to get to the end of the line by the end of the day. Those little delays, stuck behind the tree-trimming crew or with a friend who needs to talk, add up.
Really? Is life just a series of what’s-next lines stretching as far as the eye can see? I hope not. I can spend so much time in the getting that I forget where I am going. So where am I going?
Jesus told a story about a headstrong son who squandered his inheritance in the far country before finally coming to his senses. He realized that he would be better off as one of his father’s servants than he was slopping pigs in stranger’s field. He decided he had to get home as soon as he could. His destination was not the end of a to-do list. It was his father’s home. He even rehearsed the lines he would say when he got home. It turned out that he didn’t need them.
When Jesus told his disciples about his Father’s home and its many rooms, Thomas complained that they didn’t know where this home was located, so how could they possibly find the way to it. Jesus replied, “I am the way.”
I need to remember always where it is that I need to get. And the thing about the gospel is that knowing where you are going and that you really do need to get there doesn’t make you more anxious when you get behind the tree-trimming crew or when someone says they need to talk. In fact, you come to learn that the delays may be exactly how you get to where you’re going, this Jesus way.
Jesus told another story about a person who was well on his way to get to where he was going. But then there was this delay. Traffic backed up as both the coming and going lanes had to squeeze through a space barely wide enough for one of them to get by. It wasn’t until it was his turn to get through, back up to speed, that he saw what was causing the delay. There had been an incident. Looked like someone had been beaten up and left for dead at the side of the road. But rather than getting back up to speed like everyone in front of him, this person pulled to side of the road and got out and did what needed to be done. I’m guessing that Samaritan was probably way late to his next appointment. They may have given up on him altogether. He might have lost a sale or missed the game.
What we do in getting there often defines the “there” we eventually get to.
We won’t see God’s purpose, if there is one, in every delay. But we would do well to keep our eyes open for it. Maybe it’s to keep us warm next January.