A Word from DS Rev. Teresa Welborn – 3/31/21

In her book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other LiesI’ve Loved, Duke professor Kate Bowler writes about the time she visited Lakewood Church in Houston for worship. Worshiping there one Holy Week, she recalls the smiling parking lot attendant waving and hollering over to her to say, “Happy Good Friday!” Lakewood Church is where Joel Olsteen is pastor and inside the church she finds copies of his best-selling book Your Best Life Now on sale. Kate also writes about being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35 and in an interview about her research and experiences goes on to say, “I think churches in general are horrible at being sad.”

I think there’s some truth to that. Maybe humans in general aren’t good at being sad. Despite enough good reasons to be sad, we don’t give ourselves or others permission to linger there long. We tell ourselves to snap out of it. We think of our long list of reasons to be grateful and then shame ourselves for being sad. We rush to try and fix what can’t be fixed when we see others who are sad. Or, we change the channel – shielding our hearts from the pain of the world. We see our children sad – finding it’s the most difficult thing on earth to be fully present to them and their sadness.

I’m not just horrible at being sad, I want the best life for me and you and everyone else. And I want it now.

This is why I need Jesus. Because the story of Easter reframes all of this for me. It turns my assumptions about what accounts for ‘my best life’ upside down and challenges my shallow expectation to be happy all the time.A great deal of those deconstructed assumptions and expectations have to do with waiting. While I may not like being sad, I despise waiting. And I’m having to do a lot of waiting lately. During the winter storm I waited for the heat and water to come back on. At the start of the year I went to physical therapy sessions and waited for my frozen shoulder to get better. Most recently I’ve been waiting to see if my bid on yet another house will be rejected once again in the volatile and truly unjust Austin housing market.

As I begin Holy Week, I give thanks for the Savior who waits with me. The One who reminds me it’s okay to be sad. The One who doesn’t try to cheer me up with empty theological half-truths. The One whose promises are counterintuitive – promising abundant life can only be found in loving sacrificially. The One who preaches that the authentic way to living my best life is by understanding that my life and well-being matter no more than everyone else’s. The One whose teachings are complicated because – after all – life is complicated. The One who isn’t compelled to rush ahead to Easter, but/AND is confident Easter comes.

In the midst of a hundred reasons to be sad and the difficulty of waiting for a hundred things, this anchors me and gives me real hope. Hope that is grounded not in what I can and can’t do, but hope that is grounded in the One who calls each of us Beloved. The One who came and comes still to do what we cannot – to save us.

Thanks to my physical therapist, discipline to engage in uncomfortable exercises and the miracle of this embodied life, my shoulder is loosening and my range of motion increasing. Thanks to my realtor’s love for people, deep faith, and sense of humor, my house search continues with a renewed conviction that we as a church have more work to do in caring for our siblings experiencing homelessness. And thanks to the hidden work that God alone can see, the Hibiscus my husband and I thought we lost in the freeze is producing new green leaf buds. I’d walked past the plant just outside our front door for weeks thinking it was past time to toss it into the compost pile when – just like that! – I witnessed the miracle of Spring.

In a recent devotional by Kate Bowler she writes this: Jesus came to earth to teach us, save us, redeem us, and also to mark the difference between the world as it is and the world as it will be. We are being pulled toward a future with God, and in the meantime, we wait in line. For our vaccines. For the necessities of touch and connection. For a stronger vision of hope (From Bowler’s March 27th “Everything Happens” devotional).I don’t know if you are sad. And I don’t know what you are waiting for. But I know we serve a God who waits with us and promises us our best life yet.

Stay encouraged!