This morning, I step into a pulpit in Eunice for the first time. I’m as excited as a hungry man who just found 20 dollars on the ground outside a Wendy’s.
I will preach three times in three towns, serve communion three times, baptize a baby, then after church perform a marriage ceremony with a young couple. If I live through all that, I will settle deeply into a recliner or a bed and fall into a sleep that will rival sleeping beauty’s.
I imagine that every pastor or prophet or run-of-the-mill follower of God since Abram must have spurted out into the night as he prepared to leave his home with wife and livestock in tow: “Are you sure?”
I know many friends who claim they’ve never asked the question. They say their faith is pure and exceptional, and they tell me they never would question God. They say they never would impugn God’s power. But I question whether they’ve ever questioned. I can’t help myself. I must ask them, “Are you sure? That plain sure you’re sure?”
Me…I’m pretty sure I’m sure. I believe God knows me well enough to know that’s a journey I’m on, and He believes in me so much He knows I will get to the part where I’m sure He’s sure.
Truth is, we ask the “are you sure” question in the dark night of the soul. We ask Him about his sureness when the diagnosis is cancer or Parkinson’s, or ALS, or any of the mind-blowing number of deadly diagnoses. We inquire when our finances are defunct, when we’re laid off from the only job we’ve ever known no matter how good at it we were.
Oh, the question comes when we look at our kids playing, and we know they will have to undergo another round of chemo in the future and we ask in even the most desperate of tear-filled moments when our parents don’t seem to remember us.
David wrote: “I will always thank the Lord; I will never stop praising him. I will praise him for what he has done; may all who are oppressed listen and be glad!”
Peter struggled and fought and doubted and trusted and all those things rolled into one big, “are you sure, Jesus?”
Heck, are you sure, David? Are you certain you’re right about this God you write about? After all, you were so sure but then one day you looked up and found yourself in a cave, hiding from a king who wanted you as dead as the dreams of his nation.
Are you sure, God? Are you absolutely, totally, without question sure this is the way you want me to go?
As the sun sets on our first days in Eunice, I’m reflective of the time. The heat is sweltering. The humidity is heart-grabbing. But one evening, as God filled the sky with deep shades of purples and pinks, He surprised me with a breath of heaven, a little bit of wind that gently tossed a leaf around the parched flower bed that offers an entrance to our parsonage.
David wrote, “the Lord will save his people; those who go to him for protection will be spared.”
I guess that means He is sure. As long as He is sure, ultimately it doesn’t matter about me. That’s blessed assurance, indeed.
Billy Turner is the pastor at Eunice First United Methodist Church, and he has a daily blog called That’s Life at billyssaints.blogspot.com