This weekend I decided to use what little was left in my bank account on an overpriced meal from this place by my house. It’s one of those obnoxious, everything is organic, a piece of lettuce costs $80, kind of places but it has a drive thru and I wasn’t wearing makeup that day. I ordered a quinoa bowl from the man in the speaker and pulled forward to wait behind the car at the window. To my right, chaotic waves of chipping paint acted like tree rings in aging the building next door. The place is called Desperados and although I’ve never been inside, I imagine it to be a pretty run down version of your typical Mexican restaurant that puts a sombrero on your head and makes you stand on a chair when it’s your birthday. It may very well be a fine establishment but public shaming and questionable cheese dip isn’t really my thing so I intend to never find out.
I inched my car forward and let my head fall back against the headrest. My eyes followed a rust stain up the side of Desperados and I saw a tiny bird flitting along the edge of the roof. It was so grey that it looked to be covered in dust and it hopped forward erratically, as if its little feet were hot on the black tar. Suddenly it stopped, and craning its head in a way that looked painful, the bird reached down to suck from a spitting drain that stuck out from the side of the building. A few seconds later it twitched its little head and flew away in the opposite direction.
“That can’t be healthy,” I thought, and pulled forward to the window.
A friend of mine mentioned the other day that she had a very real fear when she was younger that there weren’t going to be enough firemen in the world. Her name is Bonner and she has perfect hair and I pictured her as a 2nd grader, lying in bed (with perfect, 2nd grader hair), wondering what would happen if we ran out of firemen.
I had a similarly-themed fear when I was a kid that my house was going to burn down in the middle of the night. I think at one point I asked for a rope ladder to hang from my bedroom window just in case I needed to make an escape.
I’m so glad I didn’t think about the possibility of running out of firemen, too.
I recently left my job at a public accounting firm downtown to work in my hometown at The Village Church. It feels like some weird circle of redemption that the Lord would bring me back to the place I grew up – the city in which I cheered at high school football games and stole alcohol from my friends’ parents and walked in all kinds of darkness – to work in the finance department of a gospel-preaching church. And while I am thankful for that picture of redemption, and for the unbelievable blessings that come from working here, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I’ve somehow totally missed the mark.
The Lord directed this move. He opened this door at the exact right time and let this job fall in my lap right when I needed it. But my ever-anxious, untrusting, disbelieving heart still bleeds out thoughts of fear and worry and disappointment that at some point I somehow went outside of the will of the God of the universe, took matters into my own hands, and totally ruined the trajectory of my life.
The ugliest kind of the pride is the kind that’s masked in fear.
We fear that we’re not doing what we should be doing. That we haven’t met the right person yet. That we chose the wrong major or the wrong city or the wrong church. We fear that past mistakes will always haunt us. That no one will love us if they know what we’re really capable of. We fear our own propensity to sin. We fear decisions that don’t seem to have an obvious answer. We fear we won’t make enough money to have the life we want. We won’t find community in the circles we run in. We don’t have the life we’re supposed to have.
We’re engineers that think we should be artists. Singles that think we should be married. Floridians that think we should be New Yorkers. Accountants that think we should be writers.
And so we sit. We sit and swim and sulk in our fears and stop remembering that God is God. And that God is for us. And that God is with us.
The future is a terrifying thing when I think that I’m capable of ruining it.
But when I remember that God is sovereign – the Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them (Acts 4:34) – that he hems us in, behind and before, and lays his hand upon us (Psalm 139:5) – and that whether we turn to the right or the left, our ears will hear the voice behind us saying “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) – that fear gets a little bit smaller.
Because if I truly believe in his sovereignty then I can’t believe in mine. If I truly believe in his greatness and power then I can’t believe that I’m above it. If I truly believe in the vast, intricate, perfect will of God then I can’t in any way believe that I’m capable of screwing it up. And if I truly believe that he is for me, then I can’t believe that he’d let me do so even if I was.
It is not an easy thing to have hopes and dreams and desires not yet realized. And it can be scary to think that they may never come to fruition. But if the gospel is true, and if God is who he says he is, then we can draw no other conclusion but that where we have been and where we are now and where we are going is of God, from God, for God and is good.
He is beneath, between, and before our plans. And his sovereignty exists under, over, and around them.
There are enough firemen in the world because in his goodness he has put it in motion to be so. He’s not up there wondering what to do about the firemen dilemma. He is orchestrating. Wonderfully, powerfully, perfectly.
And there are drains from which a dusty bird can drink because birds need to drink and “though they neither sow nor reap your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). Are you not more valuable than they?
It’s easy to miss the drain pipe when our eyes are set on the bird bath.
But the character of God reminds us, as it sobers our prideful anxiety, that our plans are not ours, our fears are not fitting, and our choices cannot propel us outside of the will of God.
He provides and sustains. Sometimes in the harvest – in great jobs and sweet friendships and joyful engagements and seasons of plenty. And sometimes in want – in loneliness and closed doors and confusion and dirty drain pipes. But at all times in his goodness. At all times in his love for his children. And at all times for his glory.
He is good and faithful and righteous and true.
And the water is good for drinking.