"Shifting our Focus"
The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3)
Sometimes I am like the Israelites. I see what I don’t have and I worry. This past year has reminded all of us that times of fear and frustration will come. But when those fears and frustrations come, when I am tempted to start complaining, they can become invitations for me to trust the one who loves me and cares for me.
Years ago, I was enthralled as I listened to a pastor who for several years had faithfully served the church. His executive responsibilities had taken him all over this country. As he concluded his message, he told of one of the most frightening yet thought-provoking experiences of his life.
He had been on a long flight from one place to another. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: Fasten your seat belts. Then, after a while, a calm voice said, "We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened." As he looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice of the announcer said, "We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us."
And then the storm broke. The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightening lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash.
The pastor confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, "As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous, and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm.
“And then, I suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs but worry and fear were not in her world. When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm, when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid." The minister could hardly believe his eyes.
It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, our pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid. The little girl replied, "Sir, my Daddy is the pilot, and he is taking me home."
We have all been tossed about by storms and uncertainties. They come. And when they do, our fears come as well. We can be compelled to be like those in the desert so long ago and focus on our needs and on our wants, and cry and complain. But we also have a choice, a different one, we can learn to give our fears to God, the one who holds us and cares about us, the one who provides for us.
On this day, I invite you to move beyond complaint, to see God’s hand at work to provide for you. May we live faith well today, trusting in the one who leads us.
Loving God, thank you for carrying us through this life to your home. There are times when we are overwhelmed by what we are facing. Come to us in those moments and give us the courage and hope we need to trust you to lead us through. In the hope that Jesus offers us, Amen.
Director of Congregational Development