A few years ago, a friend gave me a wonderful book: “Why Faith Matters” by Rabbi David J. Wolpe. He’s a popular author and commentator based in Los Angeles. In his book, he talks a lot about his own life and lessons he’s drawn from various crises – including a battle with cancer.
At one point, he writes about his grandfather, who died when his father was only 11 years old. The boy, an only child, ended up bearing much of the grief alone. Following Jewish tradition, he walked to synagogue early every morning to say prayers in his father’s memory – a practice he undertook for a full year.
Early on, the little boy spotted the synagogue’s elderly ritual director, Mr. Einstein, walking past his home just as he left to go the synagogue. The old man said to the boy, “Your home is on the way to the synagogue. I thought it might be fun to have some company. That way,” the old man said, “I won’t have to walk alone.”
So for the next year, the little boy and the old man walked to the synagogue together, through all kinds of weather, all the different seasons. They talked about life and loss, sorrow and fear. The little boy, for that time, felt a little less alone.
Well, the boy grew up and married and later had a family of his own, and he decided to contact Mr. Einstein – by then into his 90s – and ask if he’d like to meet his family. Mr. Einstein was delighted, but said, since it was hard to get around, they’d have to come see him.
Rabbi Wolpe then quotes from something his father later wrote about that trip:
“The journey was long and complicated,” he wrote. “His home, by car, was fully 20 minutes away. I drove in tears as I realized what he had done. He had walked for an hour to my home so that I would not have to be alone each morning.”
The story of that little boy and the old man is really our story, yours and mine. It is the story of every one of us making this unpredictable journey through life – a journey that is often not easy.
But no matter what we may think: we are not alone.
God goes out of His way to walk with us.
The first reading from Isaiah assures us that, no matter what, the Lord will not forget us.
And in the gospel, Jesus goes further. Don’t worry, he says. Our heavenly Father knows what we need. He will look out for us. Don’t be concerned about where you have to go tomorrow, or how you will get there.
Like that old man with the young boy, God walks with us.
In our uncertainty, in our anxiety, in our grief, in our joy, whether we understand it or not, whether we sense it or not…God is beside us.
So, Jesus reminds us: don’t be concerned about what the future may bring. Take one day at a time, one moment at a time. God knows our needs and will care for us.
We often forget that. We have this need to always feel as if we are in control of everything.
Guess what: we aren’t.
The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that summed this up perfectly. It said: “If God is your co-pilot, you’re sitting in the wrong seat.”
But do we trust Him enough to let him take the wheel?
So often, we don’t.
A popular saying in Alcoholics Anonymous says: “Let go and let God.”
Well, if we summon the courage to do the first part, what happens in the second? If we let go, then we let God…do what?
To begin with: we need to let God be God. Let God be our Creator, our Father, our Inspiration, our Guide. Let Him do His divine work.
Let God challenge us. Let God ask us to be stronger than we realized we could be. Let God take us where we may not want to go. Let God make us what we were meant to be.
He knows what we are capable of – but do we understand what HE is capable of? The God who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers parted the Red Sea, gave sight to the blind and raised His only son from the dead.
Do any of us think the difficulties we are facing are greater than any of that?
So: let God be God.
Let Him work miracles in our lives. And we can only do that by letting Him INTO our lives. We need to let Him in. Let Him love us. Let Him comfort us. Let Him help us carry our burdens.
The psalm we sang this morning cries out: “Rest in God alone, my soul.” Or as St. Augustine once prayed: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our restless hearts will only find their rest by trusting in God’s love and mercy, by turning to Him in our fear, and having faith.
Faith that our future really is in His hands.
Let go, and let God…and let God be God.
Pray for that sense of trust, the same trust that will lead us to say in just a few moments: “Thy will be done.” Embracing that can save us all a lot of sleepless nights – freeing us to face every tomorrow without fear, and so continue our journey.
The journey is long. And it isn’t easy.
But take heart, and have hope: we do not walk alone.