I’ve always loved Stephen Colbert’s work.
It’s funny, but also smart. Words are powerful tools and he knows how to use them to make me laugh and think at the same time.
When I’ve heard him speak about his long-held faith, his words are simple, direct and true to who he is. He doesn’t have to talk about God when he is doing social commentary with an imbedded giggle for me to remember that.
Finding myself trapped in my building elevator may seem like a harrowing experience to you because you weren’t there. My ninety minutes in solitary, stationary confinement had its moments. But God is never far from any of us.
Our beloved elevator is a little bit like a fussy neighbor you would miss if they were suddenly gone. It is loud, doesn’t move smoothly and lands not quite even with the hallway floors. But it shows up when you need it and helps you get the job done as best it can. Usually. Unless it has a bad day.
On the Summer Solstice, our elevator had a bad day.
As I was on board, brining a box of books to basement storage, I was welcomed to share the bad day and console my old friend in its dotage.
Help came quickly and carried a surprise message: We had taken an unplanned side trip to the fifth floor. Quizzical, for certain, because it never felt as if we were going up or were stopped from going down. But landing on the fifth floor meant I was already among friends, people whose faces I knew and voices I recognized from conversations in the hallway. We knew each other’s names; we had shared stories.
While the elevator and I settled down for the repair expert to arrive, estimated at about thirty or forty minutes, my neighbors on the fifth floor brought chairs out to the hallway to sit and wait with us. It became an urban dweller’s equivalent of visiting with the people down the street while out for an afternoon stroll. We caught up with each other’s lives, heard about the new home a family had purchased and a few road trips taken by another.
When the expert arrived to save the rest of the day, he worked quickly, explained what had happened and seemed quite pleased with himself that he had gotten across town in pretty good time. We celebrated that with him, and asked if he could retrieve a set of keys another neighbor had lost down the elevator shaft a few days before. He was happy to help and retrieve the keys did before he left merrily on his way.
Although ninety minutes may sound like a long time to be in such circumstances, it wasn’t under these circumstances.
Yes, sitting on a box of books is not as comfortable as the chair here at my computer nor my sofa; it is, however, infinitely better than sitting on a floor due for cleaning the next day. Thinking about the laundry waiting to be done, another book I was reading that I could have brought along had I known, the uncertainty of how much time this was going to suck out of my day, all crossed my mind.
But so did the obvious work God had done on my behalf, even before I asked for help. There is no way out of and off an elevator that is stuck without help. I felt quite blessed to receive all the help extended to me from those so willing to give in abundance.
Sometimes fear does protect us. But, in moments like these, fear, or even panic, can also become an almost immediate, demanding companion. It you cling to them, they will brazenly push aside everything else, greedily claiming your full attention. Fear can make it very difficult for you to remember God is near and ready to help you in whatever way you need. God is far more pragmatic in solving human dilemmas than you may think.
Meanwhile, the elevator, which we have since found out was installed around 1950, is moving more smoothly between floors again. It’s still a little loud, but who among us is perfect? God is good all the time.
Even before the pandemic, it was important to me to be clear about my thoughts, how I articulated them, and to not simply repeat what other people were saying. Clarity, not caution, is the core of my communication style. Deeply listening to what other people are saying is the other half of that. And from there, asking an open-ended question to gain further insight and understanding. Yes, all of that takes effort. And it is worth it. I’ve gained insight by making space for my own opinions and holding other people’s ideas as equally sacred.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Over a year into the Coronavirus pandemic, we have all adjusted and adapted, not just to survive, but to make it to the end of the tunnel and greet what comes next.
Vaccine availability surely is a great relief and a reminder that hope is with us and will be realized, bringing us back to in-person living. Isn’t it incredible to consider that we may be able to worship with each other again?
Meanwhile, we have a better handle on the things that have brought us this far: social distancing; mask wearing; Zoom meetings; online ordering of almost anything you could need. I’ve personally honed my already significant online ordering skills, and have been blessed to receive things on time or earlier than anticipated.
My best online ordering story is my bed-in-a-box that I purchased at 6 pm on a Tuesday night, expecting to see it in about three weeks. But it was waiting for me at my front door that Thursday at 10 am, less than forty-eight hours later. Impressive.
And while I don’t expect the bed delivery speed to be repeated, I was taken aback by a recent delay in sending my stimulus check to my bank in another state. The normal turnaround time is three or four days, sometimes longer if I mail letters later in the week. But, as you probably do too, I pay for the tracking feature so at least I know where it is. Well, I could see it sitting at the
regional distribution center well past the time it was supposed to be there.
Rather than stew about the situation, I got to work figuring out a way forward that would lead to a solution. That took researching the next step online, talking with the closest post office three times, and eventually being directed to filing a claim. That route also included talking with the IRS, finding out what their procedures were for replacing checks in these situations.
Making peace with the trajectory of the combined process and letting it go until I could take those steps was much easier than being frustrated, aggravated, stressed out or just plain angry.
Two days later, the tracking picked back up and the check was delivered and deposited two weeks after I had sent it. That felt miraculous all on its own.
But more so, the people who brought that package from my hands to my bank account are the everyday miracles we like to talk about in the church, and sometimes outside in the rest of the world.
The postal worker at my local branch and I have known each other for years. On the day I walked in to post my package, she greeted me with joy, asking me how I was doing. After completing my transaction, she automatically wrote the tracking number on the back of the receipt because she knows I won’t be able to read the tiny printed numbers.
The three calls to the post office that would be receiving my package were shared with three other postal workers who listened, offered their best advice and support, saying while things didn’t get lost often, they would alert the distribution center to keep an eye out for my item. What I didn’t know, until one of these folks called me back the evening it was delivered, was that they had been checking every day to see if it was progressing through the system.
Meanwhile, in speaking with the IRS after a relatively short hold time, I received the agent’s undivided, kind attention in answering my questions. If the postal service hadn’t found the check, the IRS would be able to put a trace on it and replace it if need be. As he pointed out, while it sometimes takes them a little while to do something, they usually get it right. That has been my experience in the few times I’ve needed to call them.
All of this is to say that God gives all of us, you and me, a whole lot of resources with which to work whenever we need them. And at the same time, God is working on our behalf as well.
My understanding, born of personal experience and of observing other people, is that we let our reactions against what is happening get in the way of working through the problem to the solution we are best hoping for. We also, as human beings in general, and as people living through a pandemic, can become very short sighted in our weariness, forgetting that some things just take time, effort, patience and faith to work themselves out.
God is always with us and never against us. No matter what.
In January 2020, having completed her training with Joanna Lindenbaum, Cory was named a Sacred Depths Certified Coach. http://joannalindenbaum.com/sdcc-certified-coaches/
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