Yes, you read that correctly. No, I am not so addled by senility that I don’t know what year it is—at least not yet. And no, this has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar prediction of the end of the world in 2012. I’m just looking ahead, with eager anticipation, the way a college student looks forward to homecoming weekend just before a Western Civ exam on Friday. There’s a big uncertainty immediately ahead, but there is also a promise of something really great beyond that.
I am making some plans for 2013. Yes, I’ve heard the old saying that, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I try always to follow the injunction in the book of James…
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 ESV)
And so, I readily concede that my plans for 2013 will only come to pass if God wills. Still, what I have in mind will require considerable lead time for preparation, so it is not at all too early to begin planning and preparing.
There is another reason I am looking ahead to 2013. By then, I expect that some of the uncertainty clouding my thoughts in January 2012 will have dissipated and some things that are unclear now will have been resolved, one way or another.
For example, I fully expect that, by this time next year, we will have a pretty good idea whether or not St. Patrick’s Anglican Church is going to become a reality. If, by January 2013, God has not brought together a core group of committed believers to be the “seedling” for this church which we are asking Him to plant in the vicinity of OSU, we should probably take that as a sign that it is not going to happen. In that event, we will need to conclude that God’s plans are the not the same as ours, and His plans trump ours.
On the other hand, 2012 may very well be the year in which God exceeds all our expectations in this regard. It could be that, by this time next year, we will not only have a core group of committed believers, but a lively, growing congregation that is enjoying the blessing of God on its ministry to both the local neighborhood and the OSU community.
It is completely within the power and the providence of God to overcome the obstacles that loom large in 2012. By this time next year, we may be meeting in a location that fulfills our needs for worship, fellowship, and ministry in such an exceptional way that we will simply stand back and declare, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Ps. 118:23)
I had hoped that St. Patrick’s Church would be a reality in time to mark that milestone with a celebration on the Feast of St. Patrick, March 17, 2012. I now think that is unlikely, but a year hence, March 17, 2013, we will likely either be celebrating God’s faithfulness to a fledgling congregation, or we will be moving in a new direction, with equally exciting possibilities.
Whatever comes about with regard to St. Patrick’s, God is sovereign, and His will is perfect. May His name be praised forever.
As for my other plans for 2013, I am looking forward to undertaking two pilgrimages next year. The first, tentatively scheduled for May, will be a pilgrimage to Ireland, to sites related to the ministry of St. Patrick and Celtic Christianity. I want to climb Croagh Patrick in western Ireland and sail out to Skellig Michael off the southern Irish coast. I want to walk in the footsteps of St. Kevin in Glendalough, of St. Brigid in Kildare, and visit the Rock of Cashel, Saul Church, and the Hills of Tara and Slane, sites that figure prominently in Patrick’s evangelistic mission in Ireland. And then, of course, I want to go back to Iona, that little island in the Hebrides off the western shore of Scotland. It is truly a “thin place,” where the boundary between heaven and earth is barely discernible. I hope some of you reading this will be able to make this pilgrimage along with me.
The second pilgrimage, which I hope to undertake in the fall of 2013, probably October, is El Camino De Santiago, the Way of St. James, in northern Spain. I won’t say more about that now, but my heart races as I anticipate the spiritual benefit of both of these ventures, especially el camino. I am not in physical condition to embark upon either of these pilgrimages at present, and that is a major reason why it is not too early to begin a regimen of walking in order to prepare for these challenges.
When I was a boy, my family lived on a small “farm” near Charleston, WV. We called it a farm, and there was enough arable land amid its 75 hilly acres to enable us to plant a large garden, raise a few chickens and a couple of hogs, along with a milk cow and a steer or two for beef. We weren’t self-sufficient, however, and my dad worked full-time as a printer for the Charleston newspaper. Our property lay just over a mile beyond the end of the paved road, and the rutted dirt road that connected our farm to the main road crossed a meandering creek four times. There were no bridges; we had to ford the creek at each crossing.
This meant, of course, that when rainfall (or snow melt) caused the creek to rise, which happened several times a year, we would need to cover that mile on foot, since the creek would be too deep to ford with a vehicle. So, on those mornings when the creek ran high, my dad and I would set out, generally while it was still dark, to walk that crooked mile between our house and my grandparents’ house, located near the end of the paved road.
I hated that long, dark walk at 5:30 in the morning. In my memory it is almost always raining and I am being slapped in the face by a wet tree branch as I try to stay close behind my dad, who is leading the way. The only thing that sustained me on those dark mornings was the anticipation of what awaited me at my grandparents’ house… a cozy fire in the living room stove, the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen, and my grandmother’s cheery greeting. I could get through almost anything on my way to that expectation.
Along the way, my dad carried a lantern which illuminated a circle about ten feet in diameter. Far enough ahead to be able to take the next step, but no farther… until, of course, he took that step, then the glow of the lantern enabled us to take the step after that. And so it would go. One step after another. Just enough light to take one step at a time. Then another. Until finally, we could see the lights of my grandparents’ house, twinkling their welcome in the distance.
That’s the way I see the future. 2012 looks like it might be a rainy walk. So far, the light is sufficient for one step at a time, no more. But 2013 holds the promise of good things to come. I can smell the coffee already.