Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,
When I lived in Illinois and Michigan, we always joked that there were really only two seasons in the year: winter and construction season. It seems that as soon as the snow melts, the orange cones are out on the roads, ready for another project. Some projects even continue through the winter. And, in truth, I’ve been traveling out to New Jersey for 18 years now, and there are some areas that I’m pretty sure are eternally under construction out here.
In the midst of this year’s construction season, I find myself reflecting on hurdles, roadblocks and detours. We know what these things look like on the roadway, but what do they look like, and how do we handle them in our lives?
As we’re trying to move into our new home, it’s felt like an endless list of hurdles—tasks that turned out to be more work than expected, roadblocks—unexpected tasks and projects that surprise us and hold everything up, and detours—tasks that change course midway through because the original plan wasn’t working. We’ve had our fair share of each: countless hours of painting, a broken air conditioner and hot water heater, and needing to call in an electrician when we had no idea what we were looking at. We learned early on that there was no way we could do all this work alone.
Without going into unnecessary detail, it’s also fair to say that the church has faced their own share of hurdles, roadblocks and detours over the last five years.
Additionally, we all face these bumps in the road and changes in our plans, and usually we encounter them more often than we’d like.
So, what do we do? There have been times I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air, call it quits, and walk away from the difficulties of homeownership. But that doesn’t actually solve any problems. We need somewhere to live, and this work simply needs to get done. Like it or not, that’s reality. Quite often, walking away from our problems isn’t possible, or at least it isn’t the best option.
Instead, what I’ve found works best is a combination of several things:
1. Breathe: Especially with social media and email, we have become far too quick to react without thinking. We need to take a moment to pause, close our eyes, and breathe in and out. Remember the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is as close to us as our own breath. Trust in the Spirit to guide us, and approach the situation from a calmer perspective.
2. Take it one step at a time: Sometimes it feels like everything is demanding your attention all at once. Break big tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. Prioritize tasks. Make a list of what needs to be done, and check things off as you go. Unless it’s an actual life or death situation, everything demanding your attention probably doesn’t need to be addressed immediately.
3. Ask for help: There’s no way we can go through life alone. I recently heard a comedian joke about the people that say, “I’m this close to selling it all, moving out to the country, and living entirely off the land.” The problem is, some of these same people have never even grown a vegetable garden! We need support and assistance from the people around us. Reach out to family, friends and your church community for support when things get tough. There’s always someone who has been through something similar, can relate to your struggles, or has the expertise to lend a helping hand. We’re not meant to live in isolation of our community.
4. Pray and worship: Remember the bigger picture. Give thanks for the gifts, skills, and abilities that God has given you. Pray for God to strengthen you for the work ahead. Join us in worship at St. Paul’s. Remember the greatness of God’s love and mercy for all people.
5. Take a break: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we can’t solve all the world’s problems in a single afternoon (or council meeting!). Sometimes, we feel the need to fill every waking hour with our work and our projects, and we forget to take time to rest. When your muscles are sore, your mind is tired, or you are emotionally exhausted, you are long overdue for a break. Sit down, have a glass of water, go outside and enjoy the fresh air, vent to a friend, or whatever it is that you need to feel refreshed. Let God provide for you, so that you have the energy and ability to move forward.
Remember: There will always be hurdles, roadblocks and detours. Life never goes precisely as planned. But, God has provided a community for us, so that when we are surrounded by construction cones and bright orange signs, there is always someone that we can reach out to help us along the way. This month, I encourage you to give thanks for the community around you that God has provided.
Rev. Jessica Hahn