We adopted Lola “Skitter Bean” Lain at the end of March 2020. My oldest child came home from living at the School of Science and Math in Durham on a break in early March. She would not be going back as all schools later shut down. She really wanted a kitten and it seemed to come up each day. So we found a sweet, scared four month old kitten and brought her home. Like most kitties, she was scared and wide-eyed. For weeks, she only lived in the bathroom and we coaxed her out to our laps with food. She let us pet her but we had to move very slowly and talk sweetly with her. In addition, we knew that if the shower had to run or toilet flush, she would go into hiding under a towel or in the litter box! Eventually, we figured, she will get used to us and hang out and snuggle and be a part of our family.
Fast forward to January 2021: Lola is a healthy, if not a bit hefty, one year old cat. She loves to nap, and nap, and eat, and play, and nap some more. She appears, at first glance, like other cats. And yet, we are all sad that she doesn’t cuddle like our other kitties. She doesn’t let us carry her around or hold her or snuggle for more than a minute. She remains “scared” or “skittish,” hence the nickname, ‘Skitter Bean’. I mean this cat is lying perfectly still/asleep or she is all out running in our house! She doesn’t really walk anywhere. And we are not sure why.
We have had a hard time anticipating what Lola will do next. Will she grow up and want to cuddle more? Will she always skitter and scamper across the house? Will we ever get her into the carrier to get her to the vet without serious scratches? It’s hard to know what is next with Lola. The timeline we thought we knew from having four cats prior to Lola just isn’t working this time.
As I read Isaiah 40:21-31, God’s word offers some important reminders. (I have found The Upper Room Disciplines devotion helpful in reading this scripture; my apologies to the author as I share my thoughts intertwined with his.).
Only God is God – we can’t predict what is going to happen in our lives. We can’t know what is next for us any more than I can figure out how Lola’s personality will develop. We have experiences to guide us and reason to look ahead, and yet, we cannot say with certainty. Now, more than ever, we want to know what is next. A faithful way to live into what is next is to leave the future to God – and to ask God to assist you into tomorrow. One day at a time. Perhaps one week at a time. We are not perfect – only God is God – and we serve and follow as best we can in our humanity. You are not expected to do any more than that.
Although we are weary, and finding ourselves worn out, God is everlasting with long arms. God doesn’t grow tired or weak or weary. We are finding the world to be too much – pandemic, poverty, politics – and yet, “have you not heard?” God is strong, from everlasting to everlasting — we can lean on the everlasting arms! God does not give up on us and carries us along when we do. We are not expected to be everlasting, only to rely on our ever-ready, ever-faithful God!
I have worked with our District Lay Leader, Daryl Strickland and Assistant District Lay Leader, John Kelso, to schedule calls with local church lay leaders throughout the month of January. We have talked with around 25 of the lay leaders or other leaders who have jumped on to these calls. I am finding clergy who have not taken a break from preaching and filming and editing in months. I asked lay leaders to look for the weariness in their clergy – and to assist them with getting a break! If your lay leader has not asked, consider a conversation with your lay leader about taking a break. You don’t have to leave and go on vacation; take some time to renew, to not prepare a sermon or a bulletin one week, and rest or enjoy some family time. Working more hours does not feed us or make us “perfect”; working in partnership with our laity allows all to bear the load and to serve in connection. Allowing others into the work of the church empowers many to serve Christ!
We cannot predict what 2021 will be like: look at what has happened just in January (every Wednesday there was something new!) So let’s not try to guess what will happen throughout the year. With Lola, I have tried to figure out why she is so skittish. She spend her first months of life under a dumpster, so she’s scared when she sees feet. So we try to move slowly, try to help her adapt to inside life. What it comes down to is this: we just keep trying. We stopped predicting and tried to sit back and watch, then try something new, and sit back to reflect on the outcome. And sometimes, we simply let life happen for a bit. Of course, Lola is a cat, not the church.
So my skittering thought is: let the cat be the cat and let God be God. The Holy Spirit captures our attention when we are still, when we are reflecting. If you haven’t been still lately, give it a try. Reflect.
Don’t plan, don’t predict.
Reflect, rest, pray, reflect.
God, who is God, will find a way in.
God, who does not grow weary, will carry you through.
God provides laity partners in ministry; utilize them. God gives us a Sabbath – rest. God is everlasting – you are not. So don’t skitter and scamper around and use all your energy. Reflect, be still, and go forth with God.
I appreciate all of you, laity and clergy, for all you do and for your faithfulness. You are loved!
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Tara, follow this link: https://harbordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/