One of the great things about being new here is that without any self-consciousness at all, I get to ask everybody to tell me their story. It’s possible, I suppose, that all of you already know one another’s stories, but I’d guess that’s actually not the case! Sometimes when we’re part of a community or group with the same people for a while, we don’t ask because we feel like we should already know their story (sometimes even their name!). And so, sometimes we live and work and worship alongside of people for a long time seeming like we know them, but missing some important piece of the narrative that has shaped them.
Just today, two members of the congregation told me about pieces of their lives in a way that made a significant impression on me.
Evelyn told me about how she came to spend part of her working life as a travel agent, and that because she was a single person at the time, she had the opportunity to preview the tours her company offered, and travel all over the world in a way she would never have imagined for herself. Her husband had died way too early, leaving her with three young sons to raise, but years after his death, this circumstance gave to her an enormous gift.
George told me about how sitting through hours of his son’s swim meets almost 50 years ago led to what has become almost a second career for him, as a nationally-connected swimming official. He’s met and judged Olympians! This long involvement has been life-giving and satisfying to George, in a way that is totally unconnected to what he did in his professional life.
As I listened to both of these wonderful stories, they reminded me of how my own life has led me in surprising directions—unplanned, often as a result of unintended or unwanted events in my life. How simply saying ‘yes’ to whatever the circumstances are in our lives, without fighting them or trying to control outcomes can actually let God do that thing that only God can do, which is to make good out of what had seemed mostly broken.
You will undoubtedly hear me say this many times, but here’s the first: I think God often walks not in front of us to light the way, but behind us with a broom and a dustpan, sweeping up the broken pieces of our lives and gluing them together like a mosaic, making an entirely different arrangement than the original, but beautiful in a way we could not have imagined.
It’s not only the hearing of others’ stories; it’s the telling of our own that helps us to see this. This Sunday we begin a late summer sermon series called Presence: The Power of Authentic Relationships. We’ll be talking about how and where we find those safe spaces for telling and hearing our stories, and for noticing God’s handiwork in those stories.
I’ll look forward to seeing you.
Have a glorious week-end. –Kathi