During the 3rd week of January of 2020 I was in Puerto Rico serving with a mission team from our church. Nothing about the trip was normal. Most of the plans we had made before leaving had come to naught. Just days before we were to leave, the southern part of the island had experienced earthquakes that had caused serious damages in several places. Our sending agency, Send Relief, felt our team’s abilities might be of help in serving in the south instead of the north where we were planning to be. Our group was versatile and showed a sincere and willing spirit to help wherever we were needed and to do whatever was asked of us. By the end of the week our resumes had a wide-range of tasks performed.
I found myself floating between construction work and working with children in a park since their schools had been closed out of fear of structural damage caused by the earthquakes. I must confess I am sometimes nervous working with kids. I have no idea why that is the case…but for some reason…it really is. Fortunately our group working with the children knew a whole lot more than yours truly. Our leaders devised games and activities for the kids and we had a blast spending time with them. I was more than comfortable with my role as helper and a gopher. I was terrible at the games but I did the best I could. During one of the days we were sent to serve the kids, we ended up playing a game I actually knew. When one of our leaders asked the kids if they knew how to play “Simon Says,” nearly all the hands went up…including my own. Regretfully, I sometimes have a tendency to be competitive in certain situations. The children had no way of knowing I was both a Blackbelt and a Jedi Knight at “Simon Says.” I loved the kids…and enjoyed being with them…but I was planning on squashing them like bugs in this game (in a Christian way, of course). I had not played “Simon Says” in many, many years. But as an older, wiser, and terribly intelligent male hero, I was fairly certain I would be bringing home a trophy or the championship belt at the conclusion of the day.
Once the game started, I was in complete control. I just knew a local news team would show up at any moment to get a few quick shots of this American prodigy tearing up the time-honored game of “Simon Says.” I sincerely tried to be humble…but there was very little doubt Puerto Rico would declare a national holiday in my name after I claimed the championship in such a dominating way not seen since Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. I began to drift in and out of consciousness as the reality of my greatness was quickly becoming apparent. BUT…then something happened. A command was shouted out to the group. With the grace of a gazelle, I took the step…expecting to hear the angels sing. Before the leader could get a word to me, several of the kids screamed, “He didn’t say ‘Simon Says!!!!!” They screamed it loud enough that the folks in Monticello could have heard them. In my mind, this loss was worse than what Mike Tyson suffered at the hands of James “Buster” Douglas.
As I was walking to the side of the court to sulk in the loser’s line, I was struck with a very odd thought…I never liked “Simon Says” even when I was a kid. The ever-so-slight mistake could take you from the mountain top to the valley of despair at the drop of a hat. I can remember vividly hating “Simon” with a passion…especially the moment I did something he didn’t ask me to do…or when I failed to do something he had requested…the game was maddening. It was maddening all through my childhood and I found it to be so once again in January 2020. Sigh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I won a few rounds back in the days of my childhood…but I lost even more. Being the over-thinking weirdo that I am, I would usually lay in bed at night and replay the tragic events of me losing such a simplistic game. (Time Well Wasted…NOT!) Those simple child-like games often took a toll on me. Hide N Seek, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and “Simon Says” was the holy trinity of Little Markie migraines.
Today, I find myself thinking about the maddening little game once again. As a pastor, I am so thankful we get a chance to re-open our church building this coming Sunday morning. Finally a step in the right direction has come about. But in many ways, it still has a “Simon Says” sound and feel to it. We can act on what we hear from our governor…but we can only do what he says we can do. And we do not have a lot of room to do things he hasn’t said we can do. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not complaining about the governor or any other agency. I’m just pointing out the obvious-this re-opening will have several strings attached to it and will undoubtedly be moving at a snail’s pace. My ego and cockiness sent me to the loser’s corner in Puerto Rico as I was basking in the glories of my greatness. My approach to this round of activity is much different. I have no ego…no cockiness…no ax to grind. I simply want to be a good pastor to our dear and kind congregation. I want to work with the authorities and follow approved guidelines…not because I don’t love our church…no…just the opposite…I love our church and I care about the health of each and every sheep God has placed in the FBC family.
For now, Simon Says we can meet this Sunday morning…so let’s meet! Let’s start there and give it our best. Let’s pay attention to what’s being said and what isn’t. We will proceed where we can go…and will withhold and wait it out for the other doors of opportunity to open. Without question we will all want more doors to open quickly. We are all wired that way. But the good news is Simon isn’t calling all shots…he’s helping but he’s not the all-in-all. By God’s grace, the Bible is quick to tell us that He too has spoken. Someone has suggested the Bible states, “thus saith the Lord” some 415 times. This same One is with His church this very second. I am anxious to see what He has in store for us. He has been kind and gracious to us. As we enter the Church building this weekend, be grateful for what Simon has said…but let us reserve the very best of our praise to the One who has spoken cheerfully to His people. When we get used to His voice…a huge weight is lifted and gratitude floods the compartments of these fallen vessels. In a world like ours, there are tons of Simons out there who claim to know what’s best for everyone. However the Lord Jesus not only knows what’s best for everyone…He also knows how to bring it about. I am so moved by this…I think I might just brag on HIM this Sunday. I hope you will join me!
Blessings Monticello! See ya soon!