Once a week, I run early in the morning with a friend. This time of year, the day we choose is based more on the weather than our calendar. The forecast for this morning was for cold, snow and 25+ mph winds, so of course, we didn’t plan to run today. The snow in this storm is going to be heavy with winds continuing through Wednesday as well. We’re hoping to get a run in by Friday.
When I woke up this morning, there was no snow and very little wind. I went out for a quick run before a meeting and was actually too warm! I think we probably missed the best day this week to run outside – because we made our decision based on a forecast.
When we are planning events or travel, we rightly look to the weather. Certainly we would alter our plans if a major storm were going to hit. It would be irresponsible to head out on a long drive when a blizzard is in the forecast. It makes sense that the weather would impact our actions.
But how many times is it just a false alarm?
We did get some heavy snow this morning but it stopped after two hours. The severe storm warning is still in effect, so I assume the snow will pick up again soon (the wind definitely has). This storm is real, even if the timing has shifted. But, I wonder, where is the line between responsibility and fear?
It’s not a major thing that we didn’t run today in response to the weather forecast. But what about the things we don’t do – or the risks we won’t take – because of what might happen? It might not be a weather forecast but it may be someone else forecasting that you aren’t going to be able to do it, you will fail. It could be what you know will be an unfamiliar and difficult path, and your forecast of how it will go causes you not to even take the first step.
We can cite responsibility: it’s not financially responsible, it’s not possible due to family responsibilities, there is no guarantee of success and resources could be used in a more responsible way, it will require too much time, it will take too long…
Jesus said to count the cost, and we absolutely should. But Jesus didn’t say count the cost and then decide it’s too costly. Jesus said to count the cost and choose to pick up our cross.
And maybe the heaviest cross to bear is the fear of failure and the unknown.
When I read the apocalypses (apocalypi??) in the Bible, I can’t help but believe that Jesus didn’t want us to focus on the “when” and “what if”? I believe that God wants us to have hope because the forecast didn’t look good. I believe that God wants us to be alert (verbs to watch and see are used at least seven times in Matthew 24). I believe that God expects us to further the mission of the Church despite a bad forecast.
But too often, we seem to focus on the difficulties and risks to us rather than God’s hope for the Church.
God calls us to be discerning – to be able to discern what God is doing in the world and what part we are to play. Paul did recommend that they not sail into bad weather on the way to Rome (Acts 27), but yet he still went to Jerusalem when the Ephesians warned him of what would happen to him there (Acts 20). Paul discerned which risks were the ones God was calling him to take to further God’s mission for the Church and which were just risks to meet a human timetable. The risks were the same – life and death – the reason for taking them is what made the difference.
Now while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” – Matthew 24:3 (CEB)
As I discern the next steps for me and my role in furthering the mission of the Church, I need to keep watch and interpret the signs correctly. When God reveals the difficulties ahead – or when the way ahead is a foggy mystery – I need to trust in hope, which I can only find in Christ, more than I give in to fear.
I pray that this is our focus individually and as the Church because we want to be looking the right way and be ready when Jesus comes back to take us home.
[Jesus said,] “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. – Matthew 24:42-44 (CEB)