Sunday, February 26, 2012
Two-and-a-half years-ago, I directed a production of TWELVE ANGRY MEN. I had a great cast and it was truly one of the finest shows I have ever seen performed. On the opening night of the production, the night of my directorial debut, my father died unexpectedly. The night that was to be my greatest theatrical achievement (at the time) was forever tainted by tragedy. I’ve thought back to that night many times because it sums up the way I’m tempted to perceive much of what happens in my life: when something good happens, that goodness is stolen by the arrival of something bad. Take a couple of weeks ago.
Two Mondays ago was not a good day. We’ve had a relatively mild winter this year, but that Monday we had a major winter storm come through. In the midst of driving home from a cancelled meeting, my car began acting up. Automobiles have been the bane of my family’s existence. If we go more than six months without some sort of mechanical automobile calamity, it’s a miracle. When the car was looked over, at first it didn’t appear there was nothing serious. However, when the initial repairs didn’t fix the problem, further investigation revealed there was a hole in the transmission. Next to a motor, the transmission is the most expensive part of a car. This was not good news, but I took things in stride as best I could.
Around the same time this happened, I received notice that I got an audition for a pretty prestigious professional theatrical production in St. Louis. For an actor who doesn’t have an agent, who doesn’t actually live in St. Louis, and who (beyond a commercial and some industrial work) hasn’t had any paid work, this was huge. My Mom let me use her car so I could attend this audition. The audition went well. I was asked back for the callbacks and during those I got to read for a specific part a couple of times. I know that the chances of landing a role are slim, but I felt invigorated by the process and at end of the day I left very happy and joyful.
While driving home from the audition, I found myself behind a large semi-truck. I was going to pass the semi when he turned into the passing lane and there, in the middle of the Interstate, was a port-a-potty. I was faced with an imminent threat of a head-on collision with a port-a-potty, so I swerved over and ran over a pile of lumber that had apparently fallen from the same truck as the port-a-potty. Later that night as I was driving home, my Mom’s car died in the middle of the Interstate. I thought back to the port-a-potty incident and believed the lumber was the cause for this. I ended up having to be towed and what began as a day I had been looking forward to, turned into a very long night.
We found out a few days later that the port-a-potty incident had nothing to do with the car dying. However, the car did have some sort of freakish damage to the engine (“we have no explanation of what caused this and have never seen anything quite like it”) and the entire engine had to be replaced. For two days, my mother and I were completely without any transportation. For some that might not seem like a big deal, but when you live in a rural area where there is no such thing as public transportation and you need a vehicle to get back and forth to work, this can pose a problem.
Some very kind people at the church I work at let me borrow their extra vehicle for the week and some other church people are helping me pay for the repairs. God is providing.
So, other than helping me clear my head by writing this out and sharing, what does this all mean?
Well, I’m an Eagle Scout and the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”. In Scouts, you’re taught to plan and prepare and to be ready for whatever might lie ahead. However, there are times that no matter how much you plan and prepare, life will throw something at you completely unexpected and standard operating procedures just won’t apply and won’t work. What happens when you’re driving down the Interstate of Life and out of nowhere a port-a-potty appears? What do you do? How do you handle it?
Personally, I’ve discovered and am discovering it is in those moments where God can really reach out and speak to us. I’m not saying it’s easy, because it’s not. You feel like you’ve been doing all the right things and have been following the right path and all of a sudden you’re world starts falling apart. You feel like you’re being punished for some sin and abandoned to struggle on your own. Yet, though, that’s what you feel like, that’s really not what’s happening. It is in these moments of our greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities that God reveals himself in powerful and nearly unimaginable ways. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been forced to be dependent upon others. In our self-reliant society, this is difficult to do. Personally, I find it’s much easier to give than to receive. However, the past couple of weeks I’ve been forced to receive. People who I barely know have poured out love. Through their actions, I have seen God at work and that is a truly remarkable thing.
Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people and we don’t always know why. Yet, despite this, God has not abandoned the world. Jesus is here and he walks among us in the hands, feet, tongues, tools, and talents of his followers. I’m sure there will be more things like a port-a-potty in the middle of the Interstate that happen to me. Despite all that has happened, I can’t say for sure how I will respond or act when an event like that happens again. However, I do know that I will be just a little bit more at peace and just a tad less worrisome because of what I’ve been through so far.