On this day, as Facebook reminds me, three years ago I loaded the big yellow truck in that picture to capacity, hugged dear friends and family, climbed behind the wheel, took a deep breath and turned the key.
To hear nothing.
Well, I think there was a binging. Bing, bing, bing. Or something of the sort. It was a not the truck is going sound.
We got out, called Penske and they sent out Ernie. He banged things and cranked things and grunted and sent my frined Libby off to Napa to get more parts. In his mumbling hillbilly dialect he said “I dunno but Penske oughtta be giving someone some money back on this rental.” I hear ya, Ernie, I thought.
I also thought, this is confusing. God has called us to Virginia. We are packed and loaded. We are ready to go, but now…there is delay. Why? Is this some sort of sign and now I’ll have to drag everything back into our house on North North and just tell everyone at church and our family and friends that, oops, we heard God wrong?
In the days leading up to this moment, I’d prayed for provision. We’d agreed to make this move, responding in obedience to something bigger than us and we knew we’d be holding our breath and cinching our purse strings for some time. I did not put a lot of hope into the stories of people praying and money showing up. It all sounded manufactured. Never the less, I prayed for provision, suggesting ideas to God as of ways He could supply us with a little cushion. Maybe He could move in so and so’s heart and they’d just feel like they wanted to hand us 10 grand. Or the lottery, Jesus. Let’s win that.
But there I was sitting on the side of the street with a broken truck at the beginning of a journey which was going to be nothing if not financially demanding. I called Penske to get an update, which I supposed would be we would have to wait til tomorrow. The Penske representative let me know that they were sending over a new van….and a crew of guys to load all of our stuff from one truck to the other!
Then she said “And let me see what the total is after all that.”
Probably more, thought I, what with the crew. And the second van. And Ernie. “30,” she said. I was confused as to why we’d be paying….30-what? 30 hundred? That’s not even how normal people say it.
“Thirty, what?” I asked.
“Thirty dollars,” she replied.
Just like that, thousands of dollars for that move were redeemed. They once were lost, but then were found. I was in shock. I got off the phone before she could change my mind and we got on the road, somehow making it to VA with enough time to make it into our new home and more at ease handing over the first check to our new landlord.
I drove home from Richmond last night and listed to a sermon given by Justin Siler, chosen because of the series title “Road Trip.” This summer God has done a lot of work in my heart on the drive from Richmond to Grottoes and this drive was no different.
Justin shared the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. Word comes that Lazarus is sick and Jesus replies that Lazarus’s sickness won’t end in death and what will happen will be purposeful to bring glory to God. He remains where he is and allows two days to pass. Then he announces to his disciples that they’re going to go to Lazarus who happens to live in Judea where just a few days before, those people had tried to kill Jesus. The disciples, particularly Thomas it seems, thought this perhaps was a crazy idea, but Jesus convinces them and they follow him, only to be met by Martha who is devastated and blaming Jesus.
“If only you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
Martha’s sister Mary doesn’t even bother to come out and has to be summoned to Jesus. Mary reaches Jesus and falls at his feet, weeping. She echoes her sister’s sentiment, that Jesus could have saved her brother, but he didn’t. He let her down. Something I haven’t thought of before, but this Mary, at the beginning of the chapter it notes she is the same woman who came and anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume and dried it with her hair. This is someone who has been radically changed by Christ and she is at the point of giving up. It is reassuring that even someone who physically touched Jesus, struggled to understand Him.
Then, in the sermon, Justin points out the part that I never hear anyone point out. It gets glossed over or only spoken about to show His humanity, but there’s so much more to it. Jesus wept. Not because of Lazarus and his death. Jesus is omnipotent. He already knew how that would turn out. He wept for Mary and for Martha, for his people and their pain. For their blindness, their inability to see what He could see. He felt and then he restored….he called Lazarus out.
Lazarus lived. Just as Jesus said, his sickness did not end in death. Death was just a bump on the road. And as Jesus said at the beginning of the whole situation, things happened exactly as they should to bring the most glory to God.
Justin spoke to those struggling with doubt, like Thomas and the disciples who are pretty sure going to Judea is inadvisable. He spoke to those facing a delay, like Martha who is positive from all the very clear signs that Jesus has let her down. He spoke to those enveloped in despair, like Mary, who wonder why they should show up for Jesus if He hasn’t shown up for them.
This sermon was painfully poignant for me. I was already knee deep in the reflection when Justin said these four words, words spoken to me maybe a month ago by Pastor Kerry, here in Va.
Delay is not denial.
That same spot in the journey, right at the foot of the mountain, every time this summer, I heard Him speak to me and there I was, preparing to began the upward climb. Once again, God spoke. 64West is quickly becoming holy ground for me.
I am responding to being called into ministry. It’s not unrealistic to expect that the call will go hand in hand with the complete and total revelation and fulfillment of what that all means. Or if not unrealistic, then it is at least understandable. But this passage and those words, delay is not denial, strike a chord with me.
God has spoken this message, saying what will be, and I can look here at this passage and see that my head is right when it tells me that I can trust Him even if the earthly symptoms are confusing. He will be good to His word to me as He was to His word over Lazarus. I have known these things, reminding myself of those truths while I walk through my days, holding tight to them when I wonder about starting my first class in the fall or think about suggesting to God that we get this show on the road. I truly do believe that the best path for me to ministry is His path, not my path and I am going to be amazed at what God’s going to show me in my delay. I truly am excited to see how He unwraps this.
I don’t want to spend my days sitting on the side of the road next to a dead truck or standing outside of a tomb convinced that all is lost. I want to trust that He will lead me each step at just the right time.
Death can just be a bump in the road.
Engine failure can be redemptive.
Delay can be the source of the greatest blessings.