There are two books on the bookshelves in my office that I’ve had longer than any others. One of them is the Life Application Study Bible that my mom bought for me to read and use at youth group. The other is The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. The corners and pages of this book are well-worn. The spine and cover are bent and cracked from being folded over backwards and held in one hand. This book, to this day, still captures my imagination. More tongue-in-cheek than anything else, the book describes, step by step, how to get out of some of the worst imaginable situations: how to fend off a shark, how to deliver a baby in a taxicab (*hold that thought), how to perform a tracheotomy, how to land a plane, and many other ridiculous situations I’ll never need to navigate–nevertheless, I practiced many of them… “How to Make a Fire Without Matches.” Yup. “How to Hotwire a Car.“ Did it. “How to perform a fast 180-Degree Turn with Your Car.” Check, checked and triple checked…in forward and reverse…nobody tell my mother.
*My younger daughter Micah decided that she was going to arrive before the doctor. In the delivery room, it was Aimee, a nurse who was frantically pulling out equipment and apparatuses, we obviously didn’t have time to use, and me. Everything happened so fast, the last thing on my mind was that chapter I’d read in The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you to receive a newborn infant into your arms for the first time. I was in the room when Keira was born. Still, it’s not the same thing.
For the vast majority of us who are not emergency responders, there is nothing that can prepare you for the worst-case scenario. It’s rude and intrusive. It doesn’t schedule an appointment. It doesn’t call thirty minutes beforehand to announce its arrival. It breaks in and demands to be dealt with. It’s unreasonable and stubborn. It’s a jerk. Everything becomes a blur. All at once and in the same moment, time seems to simultaneously speed up and slow down. Depending on who you are, baser instincts take over–fight, flight, freeze. There is no decision making–everything just happens. If only everything would pause for one second so we could breathe. What are we going to do about all these things?
“But that Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
There’s that other book on my bookshelf that’s been here longer than any other. The same worn, bent corners and cracked spine. The same words that have kept me grounded in the midst of the worst of the worst. It falls open to the same page every time. The blue highlighter ink somehow hasn’t faded after all these years.
“What then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The words aren’t magic. They don’t soften the blows. They don’t make it any easier. But, they are laced with promise. This. Even this is not outside God’s reach. Even this can be redeemed.