My dear Friends
In the biography of actor Patrick Swayze, his wife Liza tells one little anecdote that points to a dilemma that most of us have from time to time.
Apparently both Patrick and his wife were excellent pilots who loved to take to the sky when the opportunity for such excursions arose. She remembers one day when they were flying together in a relatively small plane, they unexpectedly encountered bad weather.
Patrick's idea was that they should fly higher in order to avoid the cloud. For Liza this seemed too risky. Her advice was that they should descend to a lower altitude from where it would be easier to land if the situation got worse. The two could not agree and as they did not have much time to weigh up the options, they decided to phone their instructor.
"Both ideas are wrong", the instructor firmly replied when they got hold of him – "You should take the shortest route and fly through the cloud. That is why you have instruments. That is what you were trained for". For both Patrick and Liza this answer came as a surprise, but they trusted their instructor and followed his advice. It turned out that he was right. There were a few anxious moments, but in the end they came through their little ordeal unharmed and considerably more confident.
For me this story tells of life. The hazards that we have to face and overcome have names and faces. They may be called loneliness, loss, pain, anxiety, family-strife, a break-up; even work, taxes, debt. In most cases we would prefer the kind of route that the Swayzes suggested, ie. to bypass the difficulty, to somehow pretend the particular challenge is not there. Often however there is no other way – we have to face and address what we come across head-on. We have to find a way through. This is the way of Easter and we are Easter people – we go through the Cross towards Resurrection.
It is not always easy. In the process we may be forced to sacrifice our own little plans and schemes. Often we have to bear with more pain and agony before the tide turns. Not all come through their hazards unscathed and joyfully. Like newborn babies we often go through our pain, crying and protesting, hopefully also learning some new strategies. It is indeed not always easy.
However like Israel of old, we have some wonderful promises that can console and even carry us through in times of stress. One of them goes like this:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you … When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God." (Isaiah 43:1-3).
As a church, and many of us individually as well, we have been going through hard times. We have no way of knowing when things will get easier, if they ever do. What we do have is a God who keeps his promises and whose timing is perfect, even though we will only understand in retrospect.
If you ever find yourself doubting God, maybe you can do what I do, and read Job from chapter 38 onwards. It helps keep things in perspective and enables us to go forward, however disastrous it may look.
So take heart and let's press on towards the resurrection experience, for it will surely come.