Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
What do you do when your heart is troubled? When things don't turn out the way you expected they would? When worries about loved ones or a job or a mortgage crowd your thoughts? Cloud your judgment?
When it seems as if God is not there?
Pastor Emily shares the perfect story about what happens when we let the distractions of the day keep us from looking for the good, for the miraculous, for God in every moment.
It is her high school graduation. The venue is one of this area's mega-churches which easily seats 5,000. Emily's class fills the immense choir loft behind the altar. From this vantage point, the students can easily scan the pews for family and friends.
Emily's eyes search the gathering crowd, straining to find her family. At long last, she spots her father and grandparents. But, where is her mother? Yes, she recalls, Mom had to take my sister to an event. They will be late in arriving. I'm sure she'll be here soon. I'll keep on looking . . .
It is all Emily can focus upon. The time for commencement is at hand. Still, her mother has not appeared. Where is she? How can she miss my graduation?
The ceremony begins. And, so do Emily's tears. Streaming down her face. The young lady seated beside her is alarmed.
"What's wrong?" she asks.
Emily is too choked up to answer. Too overwhelmed by disappointment and sadness over her mother's absence. So much so, that when her name is called to stand for recognition of an award, she doesn't even hear it.
"Stand up, Emily!" prods the girl beside her. "They just called your name!"
In a fog, Emily stands. In a blur, she goes through the motions. Doesn't recall the speeches or the recognition of others. She barely manages to contain the tears long enough to walk across the stage to receive her diploma.
Still, no mom. And, the tears emerge anew.
It is over. Emily is officially a graduate. She waits in a place agreed upon to meet up with her family. Struggles to put on a brave face. Her dad hugs her first.
"Congratulations, Emily! We are so proud of you!"
"Thanks, Dad," she says, "but where is Mom?"
"She's right behind you."
Emily whirls around. "Mom! I thought you weren't here!" The tears return.
"I was here the whole time, sweetie. I just arrived too late to sit with Dad. I was up in the balcony, waving to you every time I thought you looked my way. Didn't you see me?"
Because she was focused upon her own thoughts and fears, Pastor Emily missed out on the joy of her graduation, those moments which should be treasured memories held tenderly in her heart. And, when we drown ourselves in our own disappointments and despair, we fail to see God enthusiastically waving to us from the balcony - "Look! I'm here! I'm here!" - just as Emily failed to see her mom on that special day. Standing in her corner. Cheering her on. Ready to shower her with love and grace and blessings.
In your dark night of the soul, will you remember that God is waving to you? Trying to get your attention? Letting you know you need not be afraid?
Do you see Him?
Will you pray with me?
We know, Father, that in the midst of trials and troubles, we too often forget You are there, walking with us, holding us close, and loving us. Help us not to miss those miraculous moments You offer to us each day despite the circumstances in which we find ourselves. May we know Your peace. May we not be afraid. Amen.