Summary: Many of us dislike dealing with unplanned events, but those who need us need us now. So either we paralyze or we panic, unless we learn to work together inside God’s grace and unless we discern that He is giving us time in which to grow our faith.
I have the utmost admiration for anybody who can live amid constant crises. I cannot do that very well. If you are the kind of person who can keep your sanity when there are ten unplanned things happening around you, I salute you. How do you do it? That’s not me. That’s not my skill. I like things to be planned out. I want to deal with things that are expected. I want it all scheduled. Things aren’t “real” to me unless I have written them down in my appointment book.
Now some of you are saying, “Pastor, then it’s a good thing you were never a mother, because mothers deal with crisis on a moment-by-moment basis.” And I guess that’s right. When my children were little I managed to be out somewhere “doing the Lord’s work” so much of the time that I missed out on such joys as trips to the Emergency Room or refereeing the wrestling matches. Margaret bears those scars proudly. But even if I had been there, I doubt I would have handled it well. It wasn’t planned, you see, that accident; that fight was not on my calendar. And so I would not have been ready to respond. I need planning.
Pain, however, ignores the appointment book. When people hurt, they need your help. They are not interested in what else you have to do. At that moment, they want you to see them as the most important thing going. They want to be the center of your universe. If they are in pain, they do not care what is on your appointment book. They just want help, that’s all.
I have the utmost admiration for anybody who can live amid constant crisis. But that’s hard for me. Last Thursday evening I had parked to go into the pharmacy, but I heard a loud slam. I looked up just in time to see a car spinning around in the middle of Colesville Road, having been hit by another car coming out of a side street. I started to run toward the accident; I got as far as the pharmacy door, but I hesitated. This was not on my plan! I am supposed to be picking up a prescription at 6 o’clock! But, then, pain ignores the appointment book, so I ran on down to the corner. As it happens, no one was hurt; but someone called 911, and within three minutes of the accident there were two police cars, a fire truck, and an ambulance on the scene. All these people who dropped whatever else they were doing and responded to a crisis! More power to them; I would have a hard time with that. I want to schedule things. I want to plan them. “Let’s see, your accident, we can put that at 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon.”
In fact, I go into an anxiety attack if I don’t have my little appointment book with me. This thing lies right next to my Bible in my daily toolkit. If I leave home without it, I turn around and go back to get it, lest I miss something I was scheduled to do. I’ve gotten over that, now, however; I am a recovering appointaholic. I no longer have to keep my book in my pocket . Why not, you ask? Because now I have it on a computer program, I have it on my web site, and it’s duplicated on the secretary’s desk! Steal my wallet, if you will, but take not, oh take not, my appointment book!
However, pain ignores the appointment book. When we are faced with a sudden need, whether it’s our own need or somebody else’s need, we either paralyze or we panic. We either paralyze or we panic. We are not ready. Flexibility is not in our spiritual toolkit. And so either we paralyze – I remember someone I used to supervise, who could never get his work done because he was always trying to fix this or that emergency; or we panic – like Ichabod Crane, of whom it was said that he jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions. But pain ignores the appointment book. It just happens! And we need to do something better than paralyze or panic.
I want to invite you today to the sixth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. In this chapter, Jesus is meeting crises. For Jesus, pain ignored His appointment book. But watch what happens with His disciples. They got paralyzed once, and they panicked once. What did Jesus teach them about paralysis or panic when pain ignores the appointment book?
First, they learned that compassion means that we work together to do whatever is needed. We work together if we have compassion. Together is the operative word. When there is a need to be met, we do not tackle it alone. If we do that, we will paralyze. But if we work together, the grace of God has a way of providing for the needs.