After Vacation Bible School this summer, Rev. Kay gave me a gift. It’s a little wind-up plastic monkey. When it’s wound up, it does backflips. Backflips!!!
And here’s the amazing thing — it lands on its feet every time. EVERY. TIME.
It’s become my favorite desk object.
Anytime I go through a rough patch, I wind that monkey up and watch him flip. I’m always amazed that he lands on his feet. In fact, there’s always a little bit of dramatic tension just before he jumps, because I worry that maybe this time he won’t make it.
But he always does.
I don’t know how he does it. Yet that’s how I want to be.
I always want to land on my feet. I never want to be brought so low by a circumstance or piece of news or life situation that I can’t get back on my feet and keep moving forward.
Compared to most people, I am extremely fortunate. I have been blessed with good health, and my family and friends have, too. My parents are still alive, and I’ve never lost anyone close to me yet. I have always had employment, and I’ve never worried about feeding my family. We’ve always lived in a secure and stable environment, and we’ve reaped multiple benefits from being American citizens.
However, I have had professional disappointments. Having to leave Cameroon was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, and it caused me some personal distress. It took me several years to get over the pain of leaving early.
Somehow I “landed on my feet,” and regained a sense of purpose and meaningfulness again.
After leaving Cameroon, I experienced another major disappointment in my appointment to the church in Rowlett. As I rebooted my pastoral ministry in America, I ran into another obstacle when part of the congregation resisted my interactions with the Muslim community, as well as some of my public social justice work.
This, too, took the wind out of my sails, and I found myself reeling yet again.
But I “landed on my feet,” and found myself with the appointment of a lifetime — Kessler Park!
Ministry isn’t easy, of course. The grind of church politics and administrative minutiae sometimes makes me want to reconsider my life choices, but in the end, I come back to the call of God on my life. I remember that I am tethered to that call, and that it gives me meaning and purpose.
One of the Scriptures that has helped me “land on my feet” time and time again is a story at the end of the Gospel of John. Poor Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the night of his arrest, and he is still wrestling to absorb the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead. He finds himself sitting on the beach, when Jesus leans over and asks him, “Do you love me?” Peter is quick to respond, “Yes!” Jesus says, “Then feed my sheep.”
This exchange takes place three times. Each time, Jesus’ question is met by Peter’s “Yes!” Each time, Peter’s “Yes!” is met with Jesus’ command to feed his sheep.
Jesus concluded the conversation by saying, “Follow me.” Peter did, and it’s fairly obvious that he landed on his feet quickly. He weathered the personal storm, the shame of having denied his Lord, by becoming the de facto leader of the nascent Christian movement. He got on with the business of feeding the sheep, of leading the flock with a gentle and deft touch.
Every time I feel shame and insecurity, I imagine that Jesus is asking me, “Do you love me?” I always answer, “Yes of course, you know I do!” And he always replies, “Then feed my sheep, and follow me.”
You have to be on your feet to follow Jesus. That’s why I’m confident I’ll always find myself standing in the end.