For the fifteenth time this weekend, I go over the status of upcoming deadlines...
Quiz to take first thing Monday morning: material not yet reviewed.
Presentation to give on Tuesday: slides not yet planned.
Homework to submit on Wednesday: solutions not yet begun.
Homework to turn in Monday afternoon: complete (but care to guess why nothing else has been started?)
Too little time. Better get to school and at least spend a few hours reviewing for that quiz. Then: house meeting in the evening. Too little time. Focus. Confess Anxiety. Trust God. Focus...
But something else has been on my mind this weekend. Going to church on Saturday evening, I remembered fifty-two weeks earlier...
At the end of a weekend that included catching my first flight, missing my first connection, experiencing my first big research institution recruiting pitch, and coming to the conclusion that the U of M could be a good fit, I was back at my hotel room getting ready to go looking for a potential new home church for the first time. Only, I wasn't looking for where to visit. I knew where that would be. I would just be looking to find the building.
I grabbed my Google Maps printout of downtown Minneapolis, slipped my shoes on and charged through the hotel lobby. With twenty minutes until the start of the service that was over two miles away, I was already running late. Literally. Too cheap for a taxi, I had decided to go on foot.
Forty minutes later, after concluding that the most direct routes for vehicles were not necessarily the most direct routes for pedestrians (not without footpaths, anyway), detouring up muddy hillsides in dress shoes, straining my eyes to find street signs to try to pinpoint my location, and hoping I hadn't been misinformed about the relative safety of wandering downtown Minneapolis near dusk, I was becoming more aware of (and less amused by) how unlikely of a location this neighborhood seemed for a church.
Online directions are usually helpful. But when wrong, they are spectacularly wrong. I wondered if I'd get around the next corner and find a parking lot or an old warehouse. A time check reminded me that I was already twenty minutes late. But wait, a church! Actually here, with people inside! I hurried up to the door: Please Use Main Entrance.
How anti-climactic. But the main entrance was just around the corner. I slipped in and finally found some seating up in the balcony...
The evening, to my thinking, had already provided me with a good story. But an hour later, at the conclusion of the service, I met the guy in the pew in which I "happened to" sit. I might be slow with to recognize such things, yet I can only use the words "happened to" so many times before I'm forced to recognize the providence of God.
Because I "happened to" decide against a taxi, I "happened to" be late and "happened to" head up to the balcony for a seat, which I "happened to" find next to a guy who "happened to" not be in too much of a hurry afterwards, who "happened to" be able to give the perspective of someone who was relatively new to the church, who "happened to" be willing to offer me a ride back to the hotel (confession: I was really hoping for that one), who "happened to" offer me his phone number in case I wanted to contact someone in the cities, which "happened to" make him my contact for the house that I "happened to" end up living in, with guys who "happened to" to be willing to accept a stranger from Ohio as a roommate to fill what "happened to" be their last open slot.
March 6, 2010. At the end of the evening, I was back in my hotel room, asking God to open doors.
March 6, 2011. At the end of the evening, I open the door of my office and grab my coat. Time to call it a night.
It had been a full day, just not over yet: 8pm. I didn't realize that God already was opening doors, and for more than just funding...
It's been a full day, just not over yet: 8pm. Back home, I open the door and head up the stairs.
Tyler picked me up from school on his way back from the Sunday night service. We talk as we head up the stairs. Cody jumps out. Nothing unexpected: he's ready for the game of steal-a-word before the scheduled house meeting.
Steve's upstairs as well, strumming on his guitar. Suddenly he starts a more familiar tune and other guys from downstairs and from small group appear. It turns out that since my family couldn't celebrate my birthday with me, they sent my roommates money for pizza and ice cream.
Sometimes, a year changes a lot. Celebrating my birthday with me are all guys whom I hadn't even met a year ago.
Sometimes, a year doesn't change enough. My thoughts are so often consumed by today's work and tomorrow's deadline.
Sometimes, I don't realize that I am stressed out by the very thing that was once a hoped-for answer to prayer, as though I expect praying to result in gifts without responsibilities.
Sometimes, it takes a wistful look at last year's questions to bring a smile in the midst of today's. I have so much to be grateful for.