Reflection: Lauren Evans, Chaplain to Retired Church Workers
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” – Psalm 16:11
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
I’ve been working as the presbytery’s Chaplain to Retired Church Workers now for a little over three years now, and I’ve come to know a number of the Honorably Retired members of our community. I’ve had the chance to listen to the stories of folks who have lived lives of service in ways that they never could have predicted – lived through extraordinary circumstances that they could never have anticipated. This has been a constant theme, especially among the stories from our retired missionaries: being willing to let God lead the way. This means letting God lead even when that means leaving friends and family and one’s home in order to do God’s mission work as strangers in strange lands. It means letting God lead even when that means finding oneself living a life that was never expected, that didn’t work out the way they’d planned, and yet finding that their life was still filled to the brim with life abundant.
What can we learn from our Honorably Retired community during this particularly unprecedented time in our history? Certainly this year has unfolded in ways none of us had anticipated. What have they learned about bending with the circumstances, acting like bamboo that moves with the stormy winds and survives instead of like the oak that cracks and falls?
One of the gifts that comes with hearing the stories of our retired church workers means getting a chance to see the overarching narrative of God’s hand in the life of another. And it truly has been an enormous gift — it is so easy for us to get lost in the midst of this immediate moment. And getting lost in the midst of the demands of the immediate world means finding our gaze directed almost anywhere else but at God. It becomes so very easy to ignore or even forget that God is the one at the helm of our lives, and that God is playing the long game. We may look at the fraction of life that is in front of us and wonder where God is, failing to see that God has been at work in shaping our journeys from our first steps in the world and will continue through our very last breaths.
Getting the chance to sit down with some of our retired church workers and listening to them tell the story of their journeys makes God’s active presence in their lives much easier to see, however. Telling our story means taking a step back in perspective, as though we had been standing too close to a painting in an art museum but finally walked far enough to see what was really going on. And as our retired church workers have taken those backward steps with me to look at their lives together, the clear guidance of God’s hand through every step becomes obvious.
I am relatively young in my ministry, and in the grand scheme of things even young in my own journey with God, but the gift of my work with our HRs and their families is in the realization that just as God has guided and continues to guide their steps in extraordinary and unexpected ways, so too does God guide my own steps. As I listen to the stories of others, I hear God
calling gently to me to take a step back in my own life, to see the whole of my story so far, to see God’s hand in my journey and to have the hope and trust in God to lead me still in the years to come.
There is much to learn when we look backwards, because it reminds us of the constancy of God’s presence in our future. What would change about your own perspective this week if you took a moment to look back, to tell your own story of faith and ministry? What from your history gives you hope for the future, or helps you trust that God is with you in this immediate moment?
In grace, Lauren Evans
Chaplain to Retired Church Workers