As I write this (8/28/19), we at Gaston Christian Church are finishing up the Trust Issues series while Reidsville is just starting it. (I was supposed to introduce it to you when I preached there, but I forgot.)
For me, trust is an easy thing to talk about, even do, when there is no “threat” right in front of me. Let me share one of my recent reminders that I am not at all different from those scared, “ye-of-little-faith” disciples in a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee (see Matthew 8:26 and Matt. 14:31)
My wife is a Pediatric Home Care Nurse. She works regular shifts with a single patient (although she has many different patients), as opposed to making many short visits during her day. She works for two different nursing agencies to ensure that she has steady work. She is also a Mary Kay consultant (this is not a shameless plug; it is part of the story).
Most of the time, my wife works a day shift. Her hours vary depending on the needs and hours available for her clients. She has some “regular” clients and hours, but not too long ago, she committed to full time with one of her agencies because we needed the benefits that come with being full time. Because many of the other nurses also have steady clients, she has been filling in and picking up hours whenever she can. A couple of weeks ago, that meant covering for two night nurses who were going to be on vacation. Although she occasionally works a night shift, she was scheduled for five nights in a row, at two different homes, and the hours varied each night. Wednesday night was 11-7, Thursday was 10-7, Friday was 10-8 … Friday night is the night in question.
Although I try to keep track, I often forget what her hours are or where she is going (how long it will take her to get there/get home).
It is Friday night (into Saturday morning), third night of the five-day night shift stretch.
6:00am (oh, by the way, although the times vary by a few minutes +/- and although I am prone to embellishment and exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, this IS what happened and how it happened).
6:00am … in my “dreams” I hear my phone bling with a new message … it is just enough to wake me and a minute or two later I think, “Maybe that wasn’t a dream; maybe I need to check it?” So I rouse myself awake enough to check my phone – yes, the blue message light is blinking. “Who is texting me at 6:00am on a Saturday morning? (Could be Shannon ... if it is, we need to have a talk!)” It was an alert from an Identity Protection service I had recently signed up for; it wasn’t even a real alert, it was some information message about something … I lay there for 15 minutes reminding myself to turn off alerts for that service … finally, I drift back to sleep.
6:30am … in my “dreams” again, I hear a crash, bang or thud (as if something hit or slapped the side of the house). This time I get up more quickly – if it was not a dream, I need to investigate. No bad guys in the house. Nothing fallen or broken that I can tell. Probably a bird flying into a window or my son’s arm hitting the wall in his sleep, or it was just in my dreams.
I go back to bed … maybe I can catch a few more Zzz’s …
7:00am (again, I am NOT exaggerating!), I hear an alarm go off (wake-up alarm). “Why did my son set his alarm?” I get up. It is not coming from his room. I walk down the hall to the bonus room from where the sound is coming from. There, in a drawer of one of those plastic storage things, was a small travel alarm clock going off. My son had been home since the end of June. It is now the middle of August. We had never heard this alarm go off before and it was sitting in this drawer. Weird! (I turned it off.)
As I returned to bed, I wondered, “Is God trying to wake me up?” I asked God. I thought. I pondered. I waited. Nothing landed heavy on my heart or mind. Maybe just a string of coincidences …
I went back to bed … not expecting to fall asleep, but I think I dozed off … because …
7:30am, my phone alarm rings. Now I know many people use their phones as their alarm clock. I do not. When I travel, yes. But never (almost never) at home. I turned it off. (Before I forget, the previous Sunday I had set it as a back-up and I guess I had set it for Saturday and Sunday without knowing it, but that morning, I could not remember the last time I had used my phone alarm).
By now, I was awake and was going to stay awake … but I just laid in bed. Meribeth would be home soon, in fact, it was almost 7:45, when she was normally expected to be home. I didn’t want to yell; I didn’t want to get out of bed for no good reason (again!), so I texted her, “(are you) Home?” No reply.
No biggie. She’s not supposed to text and drive.
By the way, if you are waiting for some big reveal, some “goose bump” moment, it isn’t coming. All that was just to let you know my frame of mind; that the day had begun with multiple, unexplained disruptions, for which I was mildly looking for some added, perhaps even supernatural, reason.
8:00am, she is still not home; still has not answered my “Home?” text. But it is Saturday morning and most of the time when she works a Friday night shift, she stops and picks up breakfast for us all. That MUST be what she is doing. But if she stopped, she should have seen – and responded to - my text …
I decided to go downstairs to feed the cats and wait on Meribeth. I checked the calendar; she was working until 8, not 7. That’s why she wasn’t home yet; that’s why she hadn’t texted yet. Relief! (but only temporarily).
I did a few morning chores; it was now 8:15. Safe for me to call her; she should have left work; besides, this is her “regular” patient; the parents know her, like her; if I call after her shift is over and she is still there, they won’t be upset. I called. No answer. I did not leave a voicemail. No need; I’ve texted. She will see the missed call. She will call me. Sometimes she stays and chats with the mom for a few. That must be what’s going on.
8:30 – I call again. No answer.
Well, if she forgot to take her phone off of silent, and it’s in her purse, that would explain it. I’ll wait a few more minutes. I don’t want to call every 15 minutes … I’ll wait 17.
8:54 … no answer. Well, if phone is on silent, then … wait a minute! She’s in her car! She has Bluetooth, it will ring in her car even if on silent! Besides, if she left at 8, she should be home now, or at least soon!
9:06 – no answer, no text … this is getting disconcerting …
9:17 – by now, she SHOULD be home, even with breakfast, if not, there is a boatload of “missed calls” on her phone for her to see and KNOW that I am concerned!
Although I haven’t mentioned it yet, though my “play-by-play” should have tipped you off that I am getting anxious, nervous, worried, etc., I AM getting anxious, nervous, worried, upset …
What could be wrong?
1) She’s been in a car accident. This is the MOST likely scenario! What else could it be? In fact, it had to be such a terrible accident that she cannot use her phone! No, no, no … don’t think like that … what ELSE could it be?
2) Her patient got sick and had to go to the hospital or she is busy with both hands keeping him alive! (Although her patient is very stable, he has gotten sick before and while this is more likely than option #1, I quickly dispatched it out of mind …)
3) Nope. It MUST be the accident. She’s dead. How will I tell the boys? How will I tell her mom? What do I need to do first?
4) WAIT!!! I don’t need to jump to that conclusion … perhaps call the Highway Patrol? Or the area Hospitals. I should start with the one where LifeFlight lands and has the best trauma unit …
5) No, Scott, that’s silly. You are letting your imagination run wild. She will roll her eyes at my crazy thoughts!
9:23 – I call again … but this time, I prepare myself for a police officer or EMT to answer her phone. No answer. Surely THEY have seen my name appear on her screen and someone can call me back and tell me the location of the accident or which hospital they have transported her to!
Should I wake up Bryan now – so he can get dressed? Because if I wait until they call me, it will take him 10 minutes or so to get dressed … wait, I need to get ready too!
I make the call – no answer; Got in the shower, but with my phone just outside, just in case.
I had worked myself into a real lather by this point (and I’m not talking about the Ocean Breeze Shower Gel kind!). I was CERTAIN nothing but bad news was awaiting me and my sons regarding my wife, their mother.
Then, it hit me. “Why haven’t I PRAYED about this?” (In my defense, I did offer a quick prayer for my wife’s patient when I thought that maybe he had gotten sick causing her extended delay.) But other than wondering, “Is God waking me up for some purpose?” as I walked bleary-eyed to the bonus room to turn off the rogue alarm clock, I hadn’t really at all talked to God about my morning, about my fears, about my anxiety. Not even a prayer for my wife’s (unfounded, unneeded) recovery from the coma she was obviously in by this point!
I prayed. I confessed. Mostly, I confessed.
9:33 I call again. Still no answer.
Yes, I was still worried and wondering why my 7:45 text had yet to be unanswered or my 11 or so missed calls, but at the root of it all, I was guilty of not turning to God and trusting that, no matter what the reason – innocent or not, trauma-caused or not – I had failed to take it to the One who said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
Why is trust so hard? Why is trust so hard FOR ME?
What is trust anyway? Was I, are we, just supposed to whistle while we feed the cats and not even wonder why our wife (or husband or child) is an hour late from work after their third all-nighter in a row? I do not think (1) God calls us to “ignore” those fears or feelings of anxiety. A young child lost in a department store or a teenager hour’s late for his or her curfew ought to raise our parental alarms. Mary and Joseph did not say, “Oh well” when they discovered Jesus missing (Luke 2:41-52). They went and searched for Him. The father of the prodigal son regularly searched the horizon for the return of his son (Luke 15:20). The trust we are to have is not in conflict when someone we love is in trouble or goes missing.
However, our fears, our anxiety should not overtake us or control us. Nor should it cause us to question the goodness of God. Instead, when those moments arise (and they will!), we need to remember to pray and to trust.
“God, no matter what the outcome, even if it is as bad as my runaway, crazy imagination, you are still God, MY God and Father, and You will be by my side; You will be faithful. Now, please help me to find peace; please resolve this situation in my favor.”
I still think it is hard to define – or make tangible – what trust is. For me, it is easier to see when I am not trusting.
· When I fail to remember that God is with me.
· When I fail to pray about it.
· When I allow my anxiety to beat out of my chest, let my thought run uncontrollable wild.
· When all I think of is the worst-case scenario, or better still, when I think the worst-case scenario is all about stuff here on earth rather than eternity, then I know my trust is lacking
I need constant reminding that “He will never leave me nor forsake me.” (Hebrews 13:5) I need to be in constant contact with my Father through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I need to look for, and expect to “see” Jesus in the middle of my storm, in the middle of the night, in the middle of my fears and anxiety instead of being surprised when He says, “It is I!” (Matthew 14:27)
At 9:38, almost an hour after her expected arrival time, almost 2 hours after my first attempt to contact her that morning, Meribeth called. The signal was bad – we got cut off and had to call back and forth several times, but I heard enough to know she was ok.
On her way home, my wife needed to drop off some Mary Kay at a friend’s house. Normally they have a pre-arranged drop box for this (which is why I told you it was Mary Kay so you wouldn’t think it was a drug drop or money laundering!), but instead her friend, her VERY CHATTY friend, met her at the door. Then her husband came out … and for AN HOUR, she talked to my wife. Meribeth had left her phone in the car, thinking she was just going to walk to the front door and back. She said she had been walking (or trying to walk) to her car for more than thirty minutes! (I know this friend and I know how chatty she can be – I know that’s how it played out.)
I never did ask her why she didn’t reply to my first text or answer the phone while she was en route to her friend’s house, assuming I had called during that time – which given the frequency of my calls, I should have! I was just relieved that 1) she was safe and 2) it wasn’t because she was deliberately ignoring me or mad at me or any of those things.
(1) I am cautious to ever say, “I think _______ ” because what I think doesn’t really matter. I want to give you solid, Biblical truth without opinion, but sometimes the Bible is silent on certain nuances. Please take what “I think” as, perhaps, wisdom gained over the years, but in no way equal to God’s revealed truth. I am very aware of what Jesus clearly says in Matthew 6:31 and Matt. 6:34 and do not want to run afoul of His teaching. But there must also be a, “How do you do that?” answer.