Sunday was a strange day for me. I spoke first at the 125th anniversary of the church I grew up in. They invited me back as the “Voice of the Past” which was very humbling and also horrifying. I do not know how I got to be the voice of their past when it seems like just yesterday I was a teenager there.
After that, I spoke in the evening at the church where I first served as a full time ordained pastor, 30 years ago.
Through the day, I saw people I hadn’t seen in 30-40 years. Some of those people looked exactly the same. Some I could barely recognize.
At both places, I essentially said the same thing: How did this happen? How in the word did life go by so fast? Shouldn’t someone have warned us?
At both places, I also saw something quite clearly that I was unable to see during my time in each place. Now, I can see the Long Game.
In churches, at work or school or in families, it is so easy to get caught up in the drama that is the present. We get immersed in that world, that microcosm, and it feels like these things have never happened before or that we will be here forever, spinning in this current situation.
When I went back to the places from my past, this time I could see the Long Game. I could now see that we are all in just a relay race. We are only here for a bit. Then we pass the baton to the next pastor or the next staff member and they continue the race.
God has a Long Game and we are only runners in a small part of it.
Maybe one of the most helpful things we can do when struggling with the angst or drama of our current situation is to Zoom Out, to try to see the Long Game, to look at it from God’s perspective.
At the second place I spoke, a young man emerged from the crowd when I was finished. I didn’t recognize him at first because he was a teen thirty years ago. He was one of my biggest challenges when I was a youth pastor. He once threw about 100 pencils successfully into ceiling tiles at the church. He always leaned too far back in his chair and fell out each week as the conversation began getting serious or prayer time began. I still talk about him now as an illustration about problem children or challenging people. He knows that he made me think more than once about quitting when I was his youth pastor.
He reminded me on Sunday that he’s an emergency medical worker now, yes, the kind that saves people. He has led youth Bible Studies. He said he has two boys that look and act like he used to. He told me, “I would never miss the chance to hear you speak, you meant so much to me.”
When I was in the stressful situation, I could not see God’s Long Game.
Are you in the midst of something tough? Are you caught up in the drama of some present situation? Zoom Out. Imagine the story 30 years later or a lifetime later or long after you are gone. Remember it is not all on your shoulders, you are part of a relay.
Run as hard as you can in your segment of life in this world, do your best, be kind, matter to others and then go where God calls you next and let God’s Long Game play out. Zoom Out.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor.