Some time ago, when I was in a very questioning stage of my spiritual journey, a man who I believe is very close to the Lord, once prayed over me and said that someday God would not only show me the what but the why. The why of my life, the why of why things are the way they are.
Interestingly, this happened on the extended weekend I spent in Canada at the Kairos Summer Conference.
Leading up to this conference was my first board meeting in Atlanta, GA, in the winter of 2008. A new proposal was simply being aired, not for a vote, but for reflection, and the meeting ended with tremendous acrimony. Distrust abounded between members of what is one of the most Spirit breathed and humble ministries – to prisoners and their families. I volunteered to be a member of an ad hoc committee to help resolve the crisis and find a way forward for the ministry to grow and yet maintain trust among its members, and between the volunteers and their own elected leadership. I love this ministry, and it has changed my life in so many ways, and I could not bear to see it in such a broken state; so I was glad to volunteer. As the lawyer of the group, I would be tasked to put into legal language the solutions that committee came up with. I also contributed to finding balance between various constituencies in the ministries – large states vs. small; representation of women’s ministries, and so on. As one of my dearest friends calls me the master negotiator, some of that was a part of my work in this committee.
Getting to the Kairos summer conference this year was marked by spiritual warfare, including work concerns and the delay of my passport for no apparent reason and without any actual explanation from the Department of State. The irony of it all is that I finally received my passport in time to make a 6 a.m. flight to Buffalo, N.Y., which SHOULD have gotten me there on time for the vote on the by-laws, having missed the prior day where the by-laws were discussed. Of course, this means I was not able to be there to lobby for the by-laws or advocate for them on the floor of the board meeting. However, I wasn’t even there for the vote. My flight from Atlanta was delayed, the ground radar at Jackson-Hartsfield being knocked out by a minor thunderstorm, my plane’s secondary generator failing immediately prior to take off, and a hatch malfunction. It suffices to say that, as the van from the airport pulled up to Brock University, the board meeting had just broken up.
The by-laws had passed unanimously, after perhaps a year and a half of the most difficult time for Kairos in discerning a way forward. People who had been vehemently opposed to the original proposals at the Atlanta meeting spoke in favor of the by-laws and the work of the ad hoc committee.
I was surprised and blessed to receive the Building the Kingdom Award at the banquet Saturday night for my work on the committee. I was stunned and blown away.
On Sunday, after the conference had concluded, I was able to really reflect on these events, and what they all meant. God spoke to me to simply say I had done my work, and that I had to let him do his, without my help, to get the by-laws passed to usher in a new time of growth for Kairos. He wasn’t too sure I would do that, so I was delayed in arriving.
But, there was so much more to it than that. He said to me, I have shown you the why. Why you do what you do. Why you are put in the situations you are put in. He showed me a large part of the why of my life.
When I was in college, I loved my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and my brothers. I wanted to see our fellowship grow and succeed, probably more than I wanted myself to grow and succeed in my studies, and I would have loved to have had a leadership role when the fraternity was doing well. Instead, I was rush chairman immediately after the fraternity had a split and was elected President the following semester. It was not to be; I was a leader not at a good time but a time of crisis.
When I first became involved in Cursillo, I was put on the secretariat after only having served on one team, and that being in the same year I made my Cursillo. My time on the secretariat was spent not growing that movement or enjoying the fruits of the ministry, but re-creating its by-laws, its manuals, and dealing with other controversial subjects. I was never President, and after the drudge work was done, it was time for me to rotate off rather than stay on because of the by-laws I drafted. I was a leader, but never was given position for my leadership, only work to fix past problems.
When General Convention 2003 happened in the Episcopal Church, I was elected deputy and became an Anglican blogger, helping people to vent and later come to grips with what happened during this tumultuous time. While not all the answers are apparent for the church, I do know that it was critical I attend GC2006 and do the follow up reconciliation work in the Diocese of Western Louisiana to help hold the Diocese together, but I’ve done what I can do and God is doing what He wills. I was elected and served in a time of crisis.
Then, I became involved in Kairos. A brother, Neil Crick, told me that Kairos had a fast-track leadership program. He was right; I went from first time volunteer to member of the International Board of Directors in a space of 8 years. So much of my Kairos experience has been positive. However, I was brought on as chairman of the Louisiana Chapter in 2005, after somewhat of a leadership crisis that left the state disjointed; the ministries in the southern part of the state didn’t trust the folks in the northern part of the state; the Kairos manuals were sometimes not followed, a new set of financial guidelines came out that required a complete re-working of our accounting, a new manual came out that changed how we handled the three day weekends. When I came on as chair, my dream was to grow the ministry, and even start a Kairos on death row at Angola. Instead, I traveled and served a weekend at every men’s institution in Louisiana that Kairos served to restore trust, I planned workshops on finance and the new manual, and even had to travel to local advisory council meetings to convince these councils of the need for compliance with these new policies when they wouldn’t attend the workshops. Then, my time as chair was over. The crisis was more or less weathered, and the new chair ably took over.
The state chapter then elected me to serve on the International Board of Directors. Then, the first meeting marked by acrimony, and the events I’ve outlined above.
I am a business bankruptcy lawyer and commercial litigator. Everything I do involved crisis, a short fuse, heavy emotions, livelihoods on the line. I’ve joked at times that I am not a lawyer but a janitor or a grief mop.
So many things I get pulled into are in crisis. This has probably been a big large “why” question in my life.
Yesterday, I was on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. After I quit taking pictures and just looked at the falls as I was being soaked by mist and water and blown by wind as close as the boat would dare go, and I looked at my fellow passengers, I realized how I had this strange comfort of being somewhat in the center of the storm that perhaps they just didn’t have. Of course, I opted for a place right on the front of the ship facing the brunt of the falls, because I wanted to get wet and to really feel the force of the falls. Not a lot of folks at the front of the boat with me, while other parts were more crowded.
All of this, and sermons I heard at the conference, workshops I attended, people I met, conversation I had, led me to reflect as I was packing to leave on all of the above and on the why of my life.
The why of my life is simply this, the Lord told me:
“I made you for the storms of life, for the crises. You will never sail calm seas, you will never work for easy clients, you will never lead in my church during the easy times but I will call on you often in the hard times for all of my children. Neither did my only begotten Son, who sailed rougher seas, who had tougher clients, and who birthed the Church in much tougher times than these. You may not understand this, but I made you for these times. You may not understand why I chose you for these times, but if you even look at your own frame and how broad your shoulders are, your shoulders are not just broad physically, but in your heart and soul. They are broad to carry the burdens of crisis for others. These times of crisis are not fun times, but they are times you were born to handle. You are solver, you are negotiator, you are reconciler. You are to stand in the breach – in the courtroom, the board room, the prison, with your friends and family, with the least of these. Know that I always stand with you, you are never alone. Know I will always take care of you and your house; I ask not for your success, but your faithfulness.
Why? These times were coming anyway. Someone had to be able to handle them. Sometimes building the Kingdom is to just try to hold things together when things threaten to break them apart, to put out the fires, to fight the floods. Sometimes you can’t move forward and you do well to just hold the ground you’ve got. Your service is not lesser than those who build great new things in the cause of my Kingdom, and last night’s affirmation by Kairos for your work has told you that.
When you were a little boy, you always wanted to a fireman, and your favorite show was Emergency. While I made you a lawyer and a dedicated lay servant in my church, you are My little fireman, ready for the emergency. As you know, my Church is not bricks and mortar, but the people, and I need my fireman to take care of my people in an emergency.”
I have a feeling of most profound peace about my life, who I am, and what I am about, the Lord having shown me the why.