Dear MBC Family
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9
I shared in last week’s sermon that Mitch and I took a solo trip to the seacoast of New Hampshire. The trip was in honor of being together for 25 years. We drove through Durham where we went to college, Newmarket where I had an apartment in an old Timberland boot factory and Mitch had one by the water, and we stayed in a cottage in Hampton Beach right across from the cliffs where we had one of our dates. It was nostalgia at its height. The memories of the then twenty-one your old me dating Mitch came flooding back with an immense sense of gratitude for where God had taken us in life. Standing on the beach in Rye where we had picnics and cookouts with friends was a powerful reminder that God knows what the future holds, and His plans are always far bigger than our plans. They are also a lot slower. I had no idea at twenty-one that I would be back on that same sand twenty-five years later serving in ministry for twenty-two of those years and able to share so much of my calling with Mitch. Our journey wasn’t easy, or linear, or always fun, but God has grown and stretched us. As Peter said, God has not been slow in keeping His promise, but He has been patient with me and Mitch.
Sometimes, seeing change is hard because life often moves in centimeters. Then there are times when the change can be seen in miles. Last year has been one of those years for all of us. The change in our world can be seen in miles. We are all coming out of a period of restrictions where things like concerts, plays, and movies had been, for the most part, stripped away. The little things in life that seemed a given, such as gathering for worship, was gone and we survived a year with a lot of “with-outs”. And yet, there was so much growth in what seemed like a world moving a centimeter at a time.
In our family, we adopted our last two children. Karmen Rachelle Howell was adopted officially on February 10th and Rowan Luke was finalized June 15th. Though I always wanted a large family, standing on the beach at twenty-one, I could never have foreseen three adoptions – two within a year.
As hard as this year was on all of us, I have had the privilege of watching spiritual growth in our congregation in miles. I have recently been blessed with two conversations with individuals I have been praying for who have had spiritual transformation in their lives. I have watched as people have gotten involved in Bible study, small groups, and yearn for discipleship. I know last year wasn’t easy, but the change that felt like it was happening in centimeters has yielded growth in miles.
Now comes the difficult part. When Mitch and I come back from time away from the children, as we did from New Hampshire, I always struggle with the re-entry to the atmosphere. I know
we actually didn’t leave the atmosphere to travel to the next state, but coming back into all the responsibilities, activities and expectations feels as hard on me as a shuttle coming back into the Earth’s atmosphere.
It is a totally different procedure exiting the atmosphere as it is to return. Exiting is by propulsion of a rocket. Re-entry must be done by taking advantage of the drag with the belly of the shuttle. Both are a bit rocky, but re-entry requires drag to off-set the pull of gravity. Gravity alone will bring the shuttle back down, but way too fast. Drag is the result of friction which happens when the shuttle interacts with air particles. The friction slows down the object but creates intense heat. The blunt shape of the shuttle helps with the intense heat. But the real “star” of the show in re-entry is altitude control.
What does Peter’s words in 2 Peter above, the change in my life over twenty-five years and reentry by a shuttle, have in common? Altitude control. Peter is actually writing about how to wait for Christ to return in the in-between time of the now and not yet, and though he would not necessarily refer to it as “altitude control”, it is the same principal.
For drag to happen to combat gravity, shuttles re-enter the atmosphere backwards for a bit. Heading straight into the atmosphere, nose down, would cause the shuttle to crash. After flying backwards for a bit, the shuttle turns and does a belly flop down to allow for the drag to create friction and slow the shuttle down enough so that as they land (not always in the ocean), they are slow enough for the control panel to land them like a plane. Altitude control is the idea that heading back head-first is too much, too fast. Just because gravity is normal and present, too much will be too fast to control.
Peter knows the first church wants everything to happen fast. We all do. Christ has risen, they want Him back and not so much business as usual but business 2.0. We want life to be back to normal, but not the boring, old normal the new normal 2.0. But God, takes the drag method in life. God uses altitude control. He is slow to bring things back and it is never “normal” in the end.
We are all heading back into the atmosphere. The temptation is to take it fast and pretend everything is as it should be, but with the growth in miles from last year, we know that everything isn’t the same.
We have changed and so the prayerful question before the Deacons and Trustees is “what does that mean for the life of our church”? We will begin in-person classes, we will have the nursery open, coffee hour, in-person worship, communion, small groups and all the “fixings” of church, but we are prayerfully considering what that looks like in this new normal.
How do we consider God’s slowness in discerning what He wants us to do? The physical space issues we had before the pandemic are still with us. How to maintain both the recommendations of the CDC and the needs of the church are now being considered. We are also, prayerfully, making changes to the Sanctuary to make in-person worship and live streaming more cohesive. We will send out all the updates within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, I encourage you to take this time heading back into the atmosphere of “normal” to consider what, if anything, God wants you to add back in slowly. Consider that the lack of altitude control in the shuttle would create burn-out or a crash. Be slow and discern what to add back of the activities and commitments we once had.
Easier said than done? I know, we have eight children, Mitch coaches multiple sports and I decided to train for a marathon. It is easy to want to rush back into everything, but prayerfully consider the work that God is doing in our lives and allow room for that to continue. Allow for space, slowness, and time with God in solitude and silence.
If you haven’t been back to in-person worship, we respect your decision, but again, I encourage it to be one of God leading and not fear. It is really hard to worship online forever. If you have slipped away from study during this time, prayerfully consider adding that as one thing back in. It is amazing what God’s Word does for the necessary friction in our life to slow our shuttles down.
Standing on that beach twenty-five years later, I am grateful for the slowness of God. God isn’t slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness, writes Peter. God is slow because He knows what we need and when. I wasn’t ready then for what He has me doing in my life now. I needed the time to slow down and grow.
I pray as we “re-enter” we all, prayerfully let God take over our altitude control.