Chaplain’s Corner: CII

“When Things Go Sideways”

Shortly before his 17th birthday, Craig Barnes and his brother came home from a Christian camp where they had been working for the summer. They were PK’s- pastor’s kids-and their identity had been largely been shaped by the predictable rhythms of home and ministry. All that changed when they returned to discover their parents were getting divorced. Their mother had already moved out. Their dad soon resigned from his congregation.

Then he left. Completely.

Barnes never saw his father again. He later wrote, “Maybe Dad’s sense of failure was so great that he couldn’t see his sons without anguishing over the family that was lost. Maybe leaving us was easy. We’ll never know.” His dad missed all things that are important to most fathers–graduations, weddings, career choices, grandchildren. “For a while my brother and I tried hard to find him, but in time
we learned to let him go.”

“I know about abandonment. I know you never really get over it. I know it can force changes that you think will kill you, but in fact they save your life.” That’s how Barnes launches his book, “When God Interrupts.” Despite the circumstances that upended his world while he was a teenager, he went on to become a pastor himself. Today he is President of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Every human life is marred by major interruptions. All seems well. Then something happens. Somebody betrays us. We make a stupid miscalculation. There’s an accident. There’s a health emergency. There is a major interruption in our plans.

The Christian community is the community of interrupted lives. This is a place where men and women are free to ask a very important question: “God what in the world is happening in my life? How did I end up here?”

When we experience disillusionment or abandonment, we can go one of two ways. We can either turn our hearts toward what we have lost or are still in the process of losing, or we can open our hearts wider to what has always been our one true hope, which is Jesus. More than anything else, that choice will determine the character and outcome of our lives.

Things go sideways in the lives of God’s people all the time. Joseph, Moses, Jonah, Elijah, Paul, Jeremiah, Peter, and Marry-to name a few biblical luminaries- were all heading in one direction, only to be rerouted toward new goals that opened the way for God to do great things.

But there is one part of our world that will never change. Since God has assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you, we can say boldly, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. Who or what can ever get to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

By God’s grace it can become the primary way for us to learn that the One whose love we need most of all is never going to let us go.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain