Futility

Boise is getting a lot of snow. I’ve shoveled A LOT since Dec 14 when it first started falling. I shoveled last night before I went to bed, even though it was still snowing, because I figured it would make the shoveling easier this morning.

Justin did another round before he went into work this morning, and I just got back inside after round 412 of shoveling.

And still it falls.

As I was heading out, Alden pointed out the futility of shoveling while it’s still snowing.

I replied with, “well, I also kept cleaning my house when I had children in it, so I know something about futility“.

He agreed I had a point.

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Here’s the thing, though.

Shoveling snow while it is still snowing is not futile at all. It matters. I’ve been walking through the neighborhood this snowy season, noticing how much harder it is to walk down the un-shoveled walks. While the people might have needed to get out and shovel again later, I’m glad they shoveled when they did. I also recognize some people can’t shovel. They are working. They have physical or medical limitations. Not everyone can shovel, which seems to make it more necessary for those of us who can.

Lots of things we do in our lives may appear to be futile. Cleaning house while your children are still playing with legos as their full time job may be the best illustration of that.

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Some people might even argue that my very career is an act of futility. “The mainline church has been in decline for years!“, reads the headlines. Yes, it’s true, membership is declining in many congregations, although the church I serve is healthy and growing.  “Churches are closing!” Yes, it is true, some churches are closing. It is also true that some churches are building new facilities (as is the one I serve. Click here if you want to be a part of that campaign). 

Someone wrote a lovely reflection about being the only person who showed up for worship one night.

“In those minutes, my understanding of the word “sanctuary” deepened.

I’d been to many small services before, like the nightly Mass at the Catholic college I went to, but I’d never been the only congregant. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but Anne was.

“I’ll start with these prayers, as usual,” she said, opening the program. “Would you like to do the readings?”

I told her I would, and we began. The service started just like any other, except that Anne’s voice was quieter than it would have been otherwise. Many of the prayers are fixed in the liturgy, so the words don’t change from week to week, but they sounded different this time. They weren’t just being recited into the ether. They were being spoken to me. They were being offered for me.”

As a pastor who has led worship services for small crowds before, I’ve always been grateful for those who showed up, and less concerned by those big crowds who did not. I trust that the people who were there that day were the people who needed to be there. It’s enough.

Brit Hume apparently read the same article and determined it was proof of the futility of the mainline church.

I wonder what article he read. There are days it feels like the futility in my life is speaking publicly for Jesus when people like Brit Hume determine that numbers are the only marker of success.

Christmas Day was a snowy Sunday this year, and we had 30 people attend our worship service that evening.  Brit Hume likely would have said we should have canceled. Or he would have used it as “proof” that being progressive was bad for church growth. (hint–it’s not).  It wasn’t the size of our normal crowd, but it was the crowd who needed to be there that day. And the music was lovely. And scripture was read. And I was with people I loved on Christmas Day.

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Christmas Day Selfie

There are days when Christianity is so poorly represented on the news (okay, every day) that I have moments of wondering about the futility of shoveling the hate away so people can walk safely in the news of God’s love and welcome. And then I keep at it. Because it is what I’m called to do. It’s what I’m privileged to do. And the world needs to know of God’s love.

Alright, in the time I’ve spent writing this, another inch of snow has fallen. Back to work!

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9 thoughts on “Futility

  1. One of my favorite things about the article you cited was how the minister sat down with the lone worshiper and fitted the readings to their life and experience. That must’ve been very meaningful.

    One of my least favorite things about your article is SERIOUSLY?! IT’S STILL FALLING??!! HOW DO YOU LIVE LIKE THAT??? You have my deepest sympathy. Here it snows an inch or two, two or three times a year, and melts off the next day. I don’t know anyone who owns a snow shovel. I’d be glad to offer up a couple of spare bedrooms to anyone who needs a respite. haha! (You might now want to show up during the summer, though…)

    • Five hours later and IT’S STILL SNOWING. For real. It’s nuts. This is not our usual winter. (It better not be our usual winter moving forward).
      I’m ready for a trip somewhere warm TODAY.

  2. Oh boy does that snow photo take me back! I grew up in Montana and, Yep, looked like that! My daughter, grown now, has just moved to Kalispell, never having been to Montana and I believe she’s getting a taste of SNOW+ -15 degree windchill. In Oregon here we shut down schools and pretty much everything if a snowflake is spotted, haha. 🙂

  3. Reading your line about ‘Christianity so poorly represented in the news’, made me think of politicians using the words Christian and Christianity for their own benefit. As they highlight how much suffering there is for Christians in the USA who are no longer FREE (to discriminate) or who are no longer allowed to create laws for others to follow (bathroom laws, abortion laws).
    It made me sad that that was my first thought after reading that line. I guess that is what happens when I am listening and reading a large daily dose of news, politics, etc.
    But then I started re-reading your article and it made me smile. It IS great to read about a (small or not) group of people with a purpose. Standing for something without any hint of trying to change or persuade others.
    Reading about how it is a bit harder to walk on a snowy sidewalk without condemning the owners of the houses who choose to or could not shovel.
    And of course the wonderful statement about how NOT futile it is to clean the house around the Lego bricks. We have a few thousand and my 17 year old son and I did some serious building last week.
    Keep shoveling the hate away, little by little, clear the streets for uplifting ideas and know that there will always be people walking these streets and feeling the love.

    Oh, and on the snow part: I wish I was still living in Colorado Springs. Or any snowy city out there. California is great, but I sure miss the snow each winter.

  4. Dear Marci,
    As a person with severe asthma that is triggered by fragrances, I rarely make it to Christmas Eve service. Not only parishioners but visitors wear their favorite colognes.
    My dad invited me to go to Sunday service on Christmas Day. Less people meant that I could be there safely! You are right! Some might think that small crowds seem like a bad progression, but to me… I got to go to church on Christmas Day! That means the world to me! You never know what people are facing in their day-to-day life! Thank you for your post, seen on Jerrod Lowry’s Facebook feed.

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