On February 8th, 2013, Nemo happened. For the good part of that week, I heard warnings from everyone from the weather channel to my own mother begging me to stay safe. Evidently in a city still rebounding from our last weather related disaster, a blizzard sounded quite ominous. As I thought about it that evening, I realized that I had no idea what to expect. I had already severely underestimated Sandy, so now I found myself in my office on a Friday night: waiting on the inevitable. Regardless, this blizzard was an interruption to the general flow of my life in NYC. Seriously, a blizzard! What?! We saw what happened when it rained, now what will happen when it snows incessantly?
The issue is simple. In NYC, it's easy to get into a rut. Honestly, I believe that in a city as unpredictable as NYC, we tend to enjoy our routines. We end up taking the same train from the same stop to transfer to the same bus everyday; That's just life in NYC. But when an unanticipated storm arrives, our lives are disrupted.
On that particular Friday night the city, known for the "new york minute," realized that it was going to have to go a little slower than usual. That evening there were less people outside than normal and not surprisingly there were significantly fewer cabs driving on Broadway. For many of us, the negative aspects of a weather related interruption distract us from paying attention to any potential benefits. For example, it's difficult to focus on beauty when we are bombarded with brokenness. We struggle to find our delight, when despair is ever-present. How would I find Nemo as it arrived? Would Nemo be a problem or a blessing? Would I complain or would I be thankful?
To be honest, there are moments when I am confronted with the enormity of my task in NYC. I start thinking about the sheer need for the Gospel amongst the more than 594,000 college students and the severe lack of college ministers here to meet the challenge. I wrestle with the fact that so few people in NYC realize that our city is in the top three for most reported Human Trafficking cases in America. I struggle with the ever present need to raise support so that I can live in what is simultaneously one of the most lost and one of the most expensive cities in our country. More often than I'd like to admit, these concerns discourage me.
Sometimes, life beats us down. But no matter what providence sets before us, we all make a choice. Will we receive our daily routine altering disruptions as an inconvenience or a blessing?
When I woke up Saturday, I saw what Nemo brought to NYC. It was beautiful. I spent the large part of the afternoon walking ( albeit carefully) through Central Park. Though tourists were falling down all around me, I paid attention to the beauty that was before me. There were moments where I couldn't express how captivated I had become. What many thought would be an annoyance turned out to be a tapestry for God's Glory.
Saturday, I began to see the beauty in the midst of a broken city. Now when the sun rose on Sunday morning, I was all set to dive back into my normal routine. I hopped on my usual train and made my usual transfer and got off at the same exit on the same street that I get off at every Sunday. However, God sent another interruption. This interruption had a name as well; Kyle. Kyle's first words to me got my attention immediately. "Are you afraid of black people?" he asked. Now having served as a Campus minister at a Historically Black College and University, I quickly retorted, "no!" He then began to tell me that he was homeless and he had just woken up on the R train. He asked for money and when I said "no," he asked me if I would buy him breakfast. I was at a cross roads. On one hand, I needed to get to church. But on the other hand, there was someone that was in need right in front of me. So he and I walked over to Broadway pizzeria and I bought him and myself breakfast. You see, I had learned from Nemo that what appears to be an interruption is only an interruption from our perspective. If we see things from a divine perspective, we would realize that with God there are no accidents and his plan is never frustrated. Even the psalmist in Psalm 147:15-18 tells us that God is sovereign over everything even over blizzards. This "inconvenience" is ultimately coming from the hand of our God:
He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
As we can see from the Bible, The providence of God does not allow for an unintentional interruption. Just like Nemo came to NYC on purpose, my encounter with Kyle was right on schedule. Interestingly enough, earlier in the week I began to pray that God would interrupt my life with opportunities to share the Gospel. God answered that prayer. Though Kyle rejected the Gospel, I do believe that God desires to save him. Are we asking God for divine interruptions?
So the question that faced me faces all of us, how will we respond to what life brings us? How will we find Nemo?