Two things: Number one, I missed you. I didn’t write last week, and I didn’t realize how much I’d miss sharing with you guys. Number two, I believe this will be part one of a possible three-part series on change. This wasn’t planned; it’s like this literally just dropped in my spirit. We’ll see what happens.
Disclaimer: I am going to have a long introduction and a short message. Please read it all even if you have to read it in more than one sitting.
I arrived to work on Monday an hour and a half late. As badly as I wanted to go back home, I pulled my focus towards having a productive day. Unfortunately, just as I crossed the threshold of the entrance, I was greeted by darkness throughout the halls of the high school where I work. Other than the natural sunlight that spilled in from random windows, there was a blackness and an eerie silence that filled the building. The power had been knocked out. I saw my principal and assistant principals dart in and out of the main office trying to gather pertinent information: what caused this darkness, and when would the power be restored? Simultaneously, other staff members began brainstorming secondary plans for lunch and activities for the students while security guards policed the halls, escorted students and calmed pandemonium. A short while later, parents responded to the unnecessarily frantic text messages of their students and arrived to the school to rescue their children. All the while, I sat in my office wishing that I could go back home or at least have some power, one or the other. In a disappointment to me, it would be hours before at least a portion of my wish would come true. The power outage had affected much of the surrounding neighborhood, and the Dominion Energy workers didn’t know exactly what caused it. Furthermore, there was an estimate that power would be restored between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. It was 9:45 a.m. when we received that news. The phones and WiFi were down, of course none of the electronics worked, and the heat was no longer circulating. I was cold, bored, and inconvenienced; furthermore, there was no hope of us getting released to leave early.
After about 2 hours in the dark and cold, I found that I wasn’t even complaining about the conditions anymore. To compromise for my inconveniences, I put on both a jacket and my coat to counteract the cold, and I fiddled on my cell phone so I could at least be aware of the time and feel connected to anything outside of my darkness. I even found myself joking with my co-workers about how we were “stuck” and there was nothing we could do about it. When I least expected it, the power was restored, and I assumed that despite our setback, things would return to normal. Boy was I wrong. I didn’t expect that following the set-back there would be more discomfort. A few years ago, digital clocks were installed throughout the school, but the analog clocks that are built into the walls were not uninstalled. Both the digital and analog clocks are wired to a centralized database that sets the time for the clocks and also triggers the bells to ring on time. After the power was restored, it didn’t take long for the digital clocks to adjust back to its correct position. As a matter of fact, I glanced at the clock when it turned on, and it read, “6:00.” A few moments later, the clock was expedited to the correct time and continued ticking as it should; however, the analog clocks did not have the same fate. The analog clocks not only stopped at the time that the power was lost, but seemly went back in time and had a further distance to catch up in order to be correct. In an effort to get back on track, the seconds hand began rushing around the clock. I know you are looking for the inconvenience or discomfort. Here it is… Because the seconds hand was working overtime, it began making a squealing/screeching noise. Before long, it sounded like a tea kettle on a hot stove that had reached its boiling point, and I eventually developed a headache. I stomped out of my office and declared that I could not function under those conditions. I complained and complained until the clock finally shut up about one hour before my shift ended. Though I was elated to have some relief, I knew it was only temporary because the clock read “11:00” when it was really 3:00 p.m.
The next morning when I returned to work, the temporary silence had expired. Instead of a squealing/screeching noise, I was greeted by a grinding sound that mimicked a lawn mower or a vacuum cleaner. Though I was as irritated as the day before, I figured it was easier to ignore this lower pitched noise better than the squeal from the day before. That noise persisted for my entire shift and even remained while I worked overtime. When I left my office at 4:30 p.m., I once again had an excruciating headache just as the day before; furthermore, I found myself frustrated that of all of the analog clocks in the building, I was the only one experiencing this inconvenience. Yesterday, I had the expectation that I would suffer another day of noise to try to ignore. I clocked into work and began my grind determined to be more productive than the two days that had preceded. It wasn’t until I was about 2 hours into my shift that my assistant principal walked past my office and said, “I’m sure you are glad that the clock isn’t make noise anymore.” I looked at him with a puzzled glare then looked up at the clock. He was right. The clock had been silent since I arrived but I hadn’t noticed. I was so immune to the discomfort that I didn’t recognize when it wasn’t there anymore. In addition, I had no explanation for why the noise had stopped. It was 4:30 p.m. when I left the day before and 10:00 a.m. at that point, but the clock read “3:58.” Without me or a maintenance worker fixing it (despite the many times I tried to know the clock down with my yard stick), the issue stopped on its own.
I am going to do my level best to hit some key points as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
When I arrived to work on Monday, the last thing I expected to walk into was darkness. I believe that is a metaphor for how we sometimes walk smack into a trial when we least expect it. You can just be minding your own business, living your life like it is golden, then BOOM…trouble. That’s how I felt Monday. I didn’t ask for this issue, and I soon learned that one problem would cause a domino effect of others. Not only was it dark, it soon became cold, we were without the resources we were used to, and we didn’t see a quick fix or way out. In essence, we were stuck. Have you ever felt like you were stuck in a trial that you didn’t sign up for? Just like during that power outage, there are times while in the middle of my trial that I long for normalcy. I want to get out and have life return to what it was, but what do you do when God doesn’t make you privy to the details as to when this thing will be over? Eventually, I found the my expectations were shifting. I went from complaining about the issue to praying that it would be over soon to just accepting what was and figuring out how to survive in it. The paradox of waiting in a trial is that if we aren’t careful, we become content with the conditions, we learn to live with what is, and we may eventually stop hoping for anything better. You don’t believe me? Imagine someone with chronic pain. At the onset of the illness, they may be diligent to find a remedy for the condition; however, as time progresses they may settle for “pain management” in the mean and in between time. You need another example? Have you ever felt caught in the “Month-to-Month, More Bills Than Money” cycle? Eventually when it seems you are caught in the rut, you may just accept that some things you just can’t afford do, and some places you can’t afford to go. It’s not just about living within your means, it’s about dropping your expectation. I’d like to call this the “It is What it is Phenomenon.” That basically means, I may or may not be responsible for how things got this way, and I may or may not be able to fix it so I’ll just accept it. You see what I’m trying to say?
Let’s take this a step further. Have you ever finally gotten out of one storm just to be immediately hit with the aftermath of the storm? Think about when we have terrible hurricanes or tornadoes. First we have to suffer through the storm itself, then we are faced with the devastation caused by the storm. So the power went out, then I had to deal with the clock issue. So your health fails you, then you have to deal with the losses that follow: independence, job, etc. So your marriage ends, then you have to deal with rejection, loneliness, lack of security, and a forced fresh start. I reckon it’s bad enough that I have to go through the trial in the first place, but why is that once I’ve survived I am forced to deal with the residue of the trial? And if we are not careful, we will fall prey to restarting the cycle of the “It is What it is Phenomenon.” We will complain for a while then pray for the issue to be over until we eventually accept what is and figure out how to survive.
I hope I am making this plain.
I had become so adjusted to the noise of the clock that I didn’t even notice when it was silent. I’ll give a practical example. If my adulthood had to be described, I think of two words: struggle and survival. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to just a conversation about finances. Money has always been tight even when I had more of it. Biggie Smalls said, “Mo money, mo problems.” For every extra dollar earned, there seemed to be an extra expense to juggle. Even when it came to love, friendships and relationships, I’ve experienced for every one person who poured into me, there seemed to be three who drained me dry. In situations where there seems to be an imbalance, we enter survival mode not only to protect ourselves but to just “make it” since we are seemingly stuck in that situation. Survival mode is cool if it is used on a short-term basis. The issue with remaining survival mode too long is you can easily MISS, IGNORE, or REJECT an opportunity to escape. Basically, relief is present but you miss the shift because you’ve subscribed to your coping mechanisms and your Plan B, but I’m not judging you. We can become so devoted to our survival plan because we have genuinely been stuck in the trial so long that we have lost expectation that it will ever end. We believe it will take a miracle, a windfall of success, or some cosmic realignment to finally allow escape from our trial. I have a news flash: some trials just end. With no miracle prayer line, windfall, or cosmic realignment, it’s just over. Just like milk has an expiration date, issues can too. And just like that, the clock stop making noise. And just like that, a way was made. And just like that, my pain subsided.
“The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. “
1 Peter 5:10 [The Message Bible]
Trouble doesn’t last always, but you won’t be aware of the change if you are only looking for the trouble.
I was so immune to the discomfort caused by the squealing, screeching, grinding, buzzing clock that I missed the moment when things were silenced. I was not only free from the noise, but I given an opportunity to recover from the headache that it caused. For at least one or two readers who will receive this, there is freedom from both your storm and the aftermath, but you’re going to have to pay attention to the shifts that have occurred. There may be some abrupt stops: some friendships that abruptly end, a command to walk away from something suddenly, a report from the doctor that contradicts what they had once seen, or even an unction to take a leap that will land you in a space much further or different from where you are. And think it not strange if some of these things occur with no explanation AND if it looks like it shouldn’t be over just yet. Let me remind you that the clock on my office wall read “3:58” when it was really 10:00 a.m. Based on logic and what I had experienced before, the clock still hadn’t caught up so the noise should have started again at some point. For the record, it is now a full day later and not only is the clock still silent, it’s also still stuck. INEXPLICABLY, that issue is over, and I’m not going to question this deliverance! Amen? Amen!
My dear friend, as you may be in a situation that has caught you off guard, one that you didn’t sign up for, and one that you may have even just accepted, God knows when he will rescue you from the portions of it that he wants to rescue you from. (Long suffering is a thing, and sometimes God won’t deliver you from it but deliver you in it… That’s another blog for another day.) I urge you to be aware. Right while you are smack dab in the middle of a problem, God is working all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Just as the trial happened unexpectedly, out of the blue things can change. Don’t ignore the change.
Part two next week.
I hope this helps.