JAN 24, 2018 Devotional: “Finding My Family of Faith”

Last week, I cancelled our weekly workout.  Yes, it was snowy and cold and grey and gloomy in Charlotte.  And frankly, running in those conditions was not only dangerous, but not what anyone wanted to do … sadly … including me.  But most of you who are closer to me know that there was another reason why I cancelled our Wednesday gathering.

I had just finished teaching a spin class on the Saturday prior.  Got home, changed out of a sweaty tee-shirt, and sat down to catch up on some emails at our home computer.  Then my cell phone rang….and the name that appeared on the face of phone was my daughter, Lauren.  “That’s a surprise,” I remember thinking.  But as I accepted the call and said “hello”, just as quickly the phone fell silent.

“That’s odd,” I thought to myself.

Then….the phone immediately rang again, only this time it was via Facetime, the video conferencing feature on Apple’s iPhones.

The voice and face on the other end…..were not of my daughter.  Instead, it was an older woman named Debra, who I had never met before.

“Mike”, the voice said.  “Your daughter’s been in an accident.  We’re getting her to the hospital now.”

And just as quickly as the call came in, the voice and image went silent again.  But not before I was able to see Lauren in the background on Facetime.  No blood and gore, thankfully, but I will never forget the look of fear and shock on Lauren’s face.

I raced to my truck, not taking any time to change clothes from the spin class, and headed for the interstate, racing towards the accident scene and hospital in South Carolina.  All the while, wondering what I’d find when I got there.

Many of you are parents, and perhaps you can imagine what I was going through.  Maybe some of you have even been in that situation before.  My family and friends might tell you that I handle pressure situations very calmly.  More than likely, this attitude of calmness coupled with a sense of “let’s get done what needs to get done”, comes from my military background.  I can channel my emotions into smaller compartments and for me, that’s just the way I handle stress and pressure.

But, all the same, this was different.

The GPS told me I had 83 miles ahead.  And somewhere around halfway, I remember breaking “stride”, so to speak.  Cried.  Shook it off and then prayed to God that everything would be okay.  And that He’d give me the strength to make the right decisions as well as be a calming figure for Lauren, even if I was churning my stomach inside with anxiety.

The next few days were a series of ups and downs.  Currently, Lauren is doing well albeit under doctors’ orders not to put any weight on her feet or legs while the fracture to her sacrum heals.  As a result, she’s primarily confined to a wheelchair.  But things are steadily improving and we expect her to have a full recovery.

My message this week is about the “how” when it comes to dealing with events like this.  Our youth pastor at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Patty Arcia, often talks about this concept of a “faith family”.  By loose definition, a faith family is that group of individuals who you can lean on for support, for comfort, for advice and for healing.  More than just the concept of “it takes a village”….a faith family guides us along a spiritual path, reminding us that God has a plan, trust in Him, and trust in prayer.

For me, I witnessed several forms of faith families over the past couple of weeks since the accident.  First, my immediate family became that faith family that I leaned upon.  My wife, my parents, siblings, wife’s family, etc.  They all immediately rallied around Lauren and me as we braced for several of the early “unknowns”.

Next, my fitness family at the Cornwell Center became another layer of my faith family.  Whether I’m teaching the group or participating in classes, there’s a core group of “friends” who I see on a very regular basis.  And that group, I know, was praying very hard for my daughter, my family and for me.  I am grateful.

Next, in a larger sense, my Charlotte family has a group of friends in and around the neighborhoods who knew about the accident and reached out to us with phone calls, text messages, and emails.  I read every one.  And although I have not had the chance to respond back to each one individually, their connections and care served as an immense source of comfort; a virtual hug when I needed it most.  A sense of “I’ve got your back….let me know how I can help.”

Lastly, my church family, including clergy on staff, reached out to me, provided spiritual guidance, and told me, “We’re praying for your daughter.”  An easy expectation that clergy would do that….but the messages from Pastors Joe, Michelle, Deborah, and Derek, reinforced that “God has a plan….”.

I am certain that I am leaving out other forms of my faith family, but hopefully, you’ll understand the importance.

So what does this mean in the form of this week’s devotional?  In times of crisis, my prayer for us is that we have families of faith that we can call upon, directly or indirectly, to help navigate any crisis.  Many times, especially early on when doctors were still trying to diagnosis Lauren’s pain, I could feel the power of prayers that I knew were being voiced from miles away.  My prayer is that we lean on those faith families in our lives not just in times of crisis, but on a daily basis.  And secondly, my prayer is that we can be a source of strength for those in our lives, neighborhoods, families and work, who need to lean on us for that level of support as well.

Life is very often a two-way street, with people coming and going all around us.  But we’re all in this together and all trying to get to the same destination.  Better to go about it …. together.

Thank you for your prayers, faith families near and far.