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  • Writer's pictureSharon Beck-Doran

TBT: When I Think About the Lord

My deep thoughts need a little time to marinate this week, so I dug into my files from way back when and decided to do a #ThrowBackThursday. I was thinking of something around Christmas or Advent, but instead landed in lent. Out of place? Maybe. Nonetheless, the story still resonates.

This particular piece was written February 27, 2007. I was in my last semester of seminary. I was more of a mess than I realized. I thought maybe I was a tortured artist or something. Turns out I was just beyond exhausted.

I had gone to the registrar the semester before, ready to drop out. Just for fun, I asked how many units I needed to finish an MA in Intercultural Studies instead of the Masters of Divinity I had been working towards.

8 Credits. I could do 8 credits.

I would graduate, barely. I would also recover. I wasn’t prepared for all that would come next, and that’s ok. It’s in those places when I was unprepared, scared and challenged beyond my capabilities, that I learned and grew the most.

When I Think About the Lord

Today was one of those rare perfect days when I wanted to throw open all the windows and let the sunshine spill in. The kind of day that demands I sing as loud as I possibly could. I think it might have been the 12 hours of blissful sleep I had last night.

Yesterday, I came home from work sick. Nothing makes you appreciate breathing like a head cold.

Now I am sitting in a coffeehouse, sipping in the last few drops of the pink sunset. There is rain and snow in tomorrow’s forecast, so I will have to be content to savor this little taste of spring. Mother Nature is such a tease. Sure, I will miss scraping ice from my car, but I think I’m ready to put my coat in the closet for a few months.

This morning at seminary chapel I looked up at the banner hanging on the wall. It was colored Lenten purple, a simple rendering of the cross and crown of thorns. The caption read, “Follow Me.” I’ve been thinking about Lent and how to prepare my congregation to celebrate Easter. What does it mean to follow Christ in his journey to the cross? With my life as scattered as it has been I’m not quite sure if I’m ready for all of that.

While in college, I led worship for a church 30 minutes away. Waking up before noon feels like a struggle most days, but I had to be up at 6am on Sunday morning to make it to band practice. I had this recurring nightmare that wasn’t far from reality. I would wake up at church right when the service was supposed to start. I hadn’t picked music, practiced or put together the PowerPoint. Most of the time I was wearing my clothes or at least my pajamas, but not always. I hated being unprepared, feeling panicked. Even now I rarely play in public without practicing. I hate being in front of people with the level of anxiety that lack of preparation seems to bring.

Regardless of my passion for preparedness, I rarely am. I seem to run between fifteen minutes and two days behind the rest of the world. I can’t remember the last time I felt “caught up.” How is it that my whole life manages to sneak up on me all at once?

I think this is the first winter out of the four I’ve spent in Kansas City that I wasn’t paralyzed with fear at the thought of driving in the snow. In fact, thanks to a short lesson from my friend Derek last winter, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I remember my first time driving in the snow. I learned to drive in Hawaii and went to college in San Diego. Needless to say, snow was a foreign thing to me. It was Thanksgiving of my sophomore year at Point Loma. I took the long route home to Reno through Sacramento because my roommate’s boyfriend, Jon, rode with me. I had to drop him off at his family’s house.

I knew it was supposed to snow, and I would have to cross Donner Pass to get to home. That’s right, the same Donner pass where people got stuck and ate each other. I was afraid if I stayed the night in Sacramento the pass would close and I wouldn’t make it home for the holiday. I had purchased some tire chains. Jon, his dad and brother gave me a quick lesson on how to put them on.

It was after dark when I got to the top of the mountain. My poor little ’86 Honda Accord was having idle problems. Thankfully, I had figured out that if I left the AC on it would be in overdrive rather than stall out every time I stopped.

When I got up the mountain and saw the snow, I got nervous. I was even more afraid when I realized I’d have to put chains on. I managed to get them hooked up and put the binder thingies on as tight as I could.

I drove slow with both hands holding white knuckled to the steering wheel. Then there was a resistance like my wheels just didn’t want to go. All of a sudden the car lurched forward and started the loudest knocking noise I have ever heard.

I called my parents. My dad told me to pull over. I checked the chains. One of the latches had gotten stuck and broken off when I punched the gas. The only thing I had to put it back together with was a hair tie. So I threaded and tied the rubber band around the two ends and it worked. But it was still knocking and banging.

I got out again and tried to tighten them, but couldn’t. It was cold, and I was scared and tired from being on the road all day. I wondered if I would ever get home.

I called home for the fourth time and my dad was in the shower. My mom said he threw the phone at her and said, “You talk to her, I can’t handle this.” I think my dad was more traumatized than I was, feeling helpless at his poor little girl, his only daughter, having to forage her way over the cruel mountain. My mom was comforting, but little help. I hung up the phone and pulled over once again.

About that time, an orange truck passed by, and seeing that I was having trouble stopped to offer assistance. It was the CalTrans man. He leaned over my wheels and began to jerk the binders tight. His belly hung out over the front side of his pants, and his crack caught wind in the back. Chilly.

It worked! He put me back on the road. The soft snow fall slowed. The road turned black and began to dry. I made it over the pass. I pulled over to the side of the road and cut my hair tie off with my car key (prompting my dad to purchase a Leatherman pocket knife for me at Christmas. I love you, dad). The trip should have taken two hours, but that night it took four.

When I told my mom about the CalTrans man she smiled and said she had prayed that God would send me an angel. He did. I drew a hot bath, and as the tension eased I realized how peaceful it was to know such a simple thing. God sends angels in orange trucks with their cracks hanging out.

If I would have known what was ahead I don’t know if I would have started the journey. But once I got there, once I made it home, it felt so good. I felt strong and able, like I could go anywhere.

If we know we are headed for the cross, why would anyone choose to follow? There’s no promise that the way will be easy. In fact, struggle is guaranteed. Sometimes those hard places are just hard. In those moment, you find a hair tie, hope for a CalTrans angel and keep moving forward.

Why do we start over the mountain? Because hope, rest and home are on the other side. No matter the challenge or distress, Jesus goes before us and God goes with us.

I’m still working out exactly what it means to journey with Christ. Wherever it is we’re going, whatever I am supposed to be doing on the way, I just hope that I’m ready.

The title to this entry is based on a song by Shane Barnard titled “When I Think About the Lord” which I recorded for the audio version. You can give it a listen by clicking the podcast link at the top of the page.

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