I will not soon forget July 2012. When New Year’s Day 2012 came, I circled the calendar for July 7, 2012, anticipating our 5thwedding anniversary celebration that I would celebrate with Emily. But two July events before and after that date interfered with the celebration of our marriage in its fifth year: a home robbery and a car wreck. In the middle of this upheaval, these two significant low moments were offset by a wonderful high point when I was officially called to serve as the next senior pastor at Apostles Anglican Church. Here’s a quick timeline of July 2012 for our family:
- July 5th: walk in to our home on an average Thursday morning to discover our home had been invaded and we had been robbed
- July 7th: celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary as best we could in the shadow of said break-in
- July 8th: Fr. Laird Bryson comes to our home for prayers of cleansing and blessing
- July 10th: receive the call to serve as the next senior minister at Apostles Anglican Church (a tremendous joy overshadows the disturbance of the recent break-in)
- July 13th: on a routine outing to Krispy Kreme with my daughter, Madeleine, a driver fails to yield turning left from Kingston Pike and I find myself in a collision severely damaging my Jetta. Thankfully, what matters most—human lives—were not seriously damaged. By God’s grace, only minor injuries occurred.
When I awoke on Saturday, July 14th, I took some time to listen to my life and all that had happened in the past few weeks. Having suffered a break-in and a car wreck within eight days, I was tempted to lock the doors and stay huddled inside until the craziness stopped. Most of the time, it seems that the Enemy of God is subtle in his disturbance of the saints of God, but this is not one of his subtler moments. These events are an overt attempt to steal the joy and peace that comes with celebrating my anniversary and answering the call to serve as Apostles’ next vicar. And then on Saturday morning, a third attempt to subvert joy came into my mind and heart: the temptation to moan and whine about my circumstances. Our Enemy is relentless, for the temptation to find consolation in complaining is one of Satan’s craftiest stratagems, a case of deceit in one of its highest forms. In the face of hardship, temptation, and disturbance, still I believe that “greater is He who is within us than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4).
Feeling rattled from both our break-in and the recent car wreck, I followed the guidance of the Spirit who brought me into the communion of saints. In moments of disorientation, I discover again and again that the Holy Spirit brings comfort through the communion of saints. For reasons I cannot explain, the Spirit led me to the words of Bishop Jeremy Taylor in his book, Holy Living, where he addresses the great importance of embracing contentment in the face of crisis. Here is one marvelous selection that pushed back against the enclosing darkness:
God has appointed one remedy for all the evils in the world, and that is a contented spirit: for this alone makes a man pass through fire, and not be scorched; through seas, and not be drowned; through hunger and nakedness, and want nothing… Contentedness in all accidents brings great peace of spirit, and is the great and only instrument of temporal happiness. It removes the sting from the accident, and makes a man not to depend upon chance and the uncertain dispositions of men for his well-being, but only on God and his own spirit. We ourselves make our fortunes good or bad….When the north wind blows hard, and it rains, sadly none but fools sit down in it and cry; wise people defend themselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire and a dry roof. (Holy Living, Chapter II, Section 6).
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Coming to Bishop Taylor’s counsel for consolation, I find myself convicted, but convicted by grace to discover the “warm fire” of contentment under the “dry roof” of God’s sheltering, protecting love. Circumstances need not burn us when we pass through the fire of trials; instead, contentment offers warmth in the midst of loss and frustration.
I haven’t even approached the vicinity of suffering that other saints have known; the Apostle Paul’s curriculum vitae of suffering in 2 Corinthians 11 renders me unscathed in comparison with the saints of history. Yet it is those same saints who guide me to a greater, nobler hope in the face of my smaller adversities. In their words and witness, I learn that the embrace of weakness is a weapon against discouragement. In their legacy, I find a contented spirit builds a rampart for the soul, a sturdy defense against all assaults of the Enemy.
Here is prayer in that spirit from the Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for Peace:
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 99.)