If you pay attention in life, and most of our faith traditions ask us to do so, you learn a lot about yourself (and others, of course). One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m not a huge fan of surprises. I don’t mean surprise parties, although I’m not sure I’m fond of those either. I’m talking about last minute changes or surprise visitors on an afternoon when you’ve finally found the time to settle in and answer emails or, more seriously, illnesses that rearrange your life for short or long periods of time.
The funny thing is that the life of a minister is full of surprises. I knew that going into it twenty years ago, and I know it much more deeply today. That’s why one of my resolutions for this new year is to meditate and embrace the contemplative consistently in hopes of learning how to be more adaptable, to “go with the flow.”
Almost twenty days in, and I’m not sure it’s going so well. In all fairness, for someone like me it’s not been the easiest stretch. The second week of 2018 was upended in our house as we found ourselves trying to combat a five-year-old’s case of the croup and then as the croup subsided but the cough lingered, I found myself caring for a spouse with the flu. It was a week of scrambling to stay well, manage a major event for work, keep the five-year-old from driving everyone crazy, and well, you can imagine the rest. You all have been there, perhaps with more serious stuff.
We managed to survive it all and returned to work this week after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday when the predictions for snow came in. Knowing full well how we (don’t) handle snow here in the South, I knew the college’s MLK celebration for the second time in nine years could be in trouble. The program was rich with music and readings and a keynote speaker who’s among the best, but all of that couldn’t stop it. I woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Emory University, including Oxford College, was closed. Even if it warmed up and the snow melted, I couldn’t hold the event.
Wednesday was a long day as I set about trying to rearrange everything. I knew pulling calendars together would be a challenge, and it took most of the day to figure out when to hold the event. Well, it turned out that it was impossible to get the keynote speaker’s calendar and the college’s calendar to line up before April. So much for that, I thought!
But in the middle of trips outside with a five-year-old now well enough to enjoy his first snow (that was a surprise gift in the middle of the other surprises), I received an email from our keynote speaker wondering about speaking at an event honoring and remembering Dr. King on April 4.
Let that date sink in for a moment. This last decade has been all about fifty year anniversaries that changed the course of our history in the United States. Fifty years since the freedom rides and Freedom Summer and “I have a dream…” and the bus boycotts and so much more, and fifty years ago in 1968 on April 4, Dr. King was assassinated. Shivering from the snow that had ruined my day, I stood at the computer gaping at the screen.
Seeing and feeling that moment this week was amazing grace to me. Now it doesn’t always work out that way, I know. But when it does it helps to keep our eyes peeled and our ears perked for the beauty.
I hope your resolutions, if you made them, are going well. A new year does hold potential for, well, newness and beginnings. And if they’re not, then the good news is that we can start over at any point. We don’t have to wait for 2019.
By the way, and you’ll hear more about this again, but make plans now to attend the event honoring Dr. King with keynote speaker, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, on April 4, 2018 at Oxford College.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University and lives in Oxford, Georgia with his partner, Ami, and their son, Sam.