Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15 ESV)
If the Lord wills.
Four simple words. One complex and mysterious meaning.
It has been quite some time since I have written anything substantial to post online. It is not for lack of adequate subject matter, rather for lack of inspirational muse. For some, writing is as simple as the eyes-closed exhalation of a still moment. For others it is a laborious chore that, while birthing a beautiful result, involves much tearing and screaming. I count myself a member of the latter group.
If the Lord wills.
The metaphor of birth is a potent one. Beauty from pain. Life from death. Beginnings from endings. It is all the more potent having now gone through, alongside my amazing wife, a natural birth.
Our first son was a scheduled caesarian. In the second to last week of her pregnancy the doctor announced that our son was breach and so therefore could not be, or perhaps more truthfully ought not be, birthed naturally. We were given a day or so to consider our options. A very long night of talking, praying, crying, and silence ensued. The next day’s dawn fell upon bloodshot eyes as we gave the doctor our answer. The goal is a healthy baby and a safe mother. Dreams of ‘normal’ childbirth lay stillborn on the floor. About a week later Becky was rolled into a sterile white room, draped, sliced, drawn, and sewn. We were parents. We had a son. The whole experience, while joyous, was rather clinical. We knew the date, time, and location. We checked in, had a child, and checked out.
The second child was a completely different experience. Not wanting to feel like so much red meat we enlisted the help of midwives at a free standing birth clinic. We were bound and determined to have a different experience, to feel the catharsis of labor and delivery. Her waters break at 2am on Wednesday morning. We wait. At 10am we call the midwives and they advise staying home. We wait. We arrive at the the birth center at 4pm and they tell us to go for a walk, grab dinner, and wait. When we return at 6pm Becky has progressed enough for us to at least stay at the facility.
What happened over the next 14 hours is something of a blur. In the birthing tub. Walking in the house. In the shower. Swaying in the room. She’s lying on the bed. I’m lying there also, but for the times when I’m not. After those 14 hours we are transferred to a hospital. It’s been too long since her waters broke. There’s not enough progression. I find myself driving in the car behind Becky and the midwife realizing that, having been awake for 26 hours, I am most likely more impaired than many drunk drivers. We arrive at the hospital, are wheeled in, tabled up, and vacuum assisted. In 10 minutes we were new parents again.
Fifteen minutes for the first. Thirty one hours for the second.
Birth has become a more potent metaphor.
If the Lord wills.
I recently read an article written by one of my pastors. His church is moving into a new facility and as with all major construction there have been plenty of delays. He writes:
In total, our delay will have dragged on for two months. I thought my disappointment quotient might have run higher. Maybe it hasn’t because ever since that sign on the property went up we’ve included the initials LW at the end. Lord willing. For good reason. James says in chapter 4 of his epistle that we don’t have any idea about what will happen tomorrow. Life is nothing more than a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. His counsel in verse 15? You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Opening new church buildings definitely falls under the broad category of this or that. Plan, but hold everything loosely.
“Plan, but hold everything loosely.” I have been trying to hold everything loosely for the last 11 months. A job transition that moved me out of one career, but did not move me into another has me learning blow by painful blow what it means to hold things with an open hand. Providing for my family? Open hand. Finding out where I should be going and what career opportunities I should be pursuing? Open hand. Fighting back anger, frustration, depression? Open hand.
I am by no means a Job, but “the silence of God” is unnerving. Andrew Peterson, in his song by the same name, deals with feelings of this sort by asking the question: “Then what about the times when even followers get lost? ‘Cause we all get lost sometimes… ” Perhaps even more frightening, however, than God’s silence is the thought that he could be speaking loud and clear, but I am simply unable to recognize his voice. In waiting for a storm, I miss the whisper. As I curse the plant that I did not grow, it dies above me and the creator kindly points to my misplaced pity.
If the Lord wills
Perhaps I am in a labor whose end is far from near. Perhaps the light is breaking even now over a new day’s dawn. I cannot say where he is taking me, nor what his end goal is for this process. Yet, I must confess that if the Lord wills I will lie in this nascent bed, screaming, tearing, crying, groaning, until what he’s bringing forth breathes it’s first and the eyes-closed exhalation of that still moment passes my lips.