Dear Christ Church Family,
As I write to you, I have my phone’s volume up, ready and waiting for the call from my wife to let me know that labor has started, and we need to go to the hospital to deliver our third child. We are in this limbo—that many of you may remember—of waiting anxiously on those signs that it’s time to go, and sometimes waiting like this is the WORST. Stephanie and I were just talking the other night about how neither of us realized how deeply rooted our expectation was that this child would arrive earlier than his due date (being the third, it was not an unreasonable expectation). Now that this baby is taking his sweet time and is past the due date, we are coming to terms with how much we were letting that expectation shape our plans and visions of how this will go.
Childbirth is something that, amazingly, is always both predictable and unpredictable. Every human that has ever lived has entered the world in this way, and yet each situation is unique, dynamic, and sometimes scary. We can try to make our predictions and plans, but this is one of those things that reminds me, yet again, of that central and unescapable Truth: that I am not in control. I can try to pretend otherwise, but the reality is that I am never in control. And when my expectations don’t align with reality, then there can be disappointment, or even despair.
I wonder if many of us, in this congregation and collectively as a society, have entered into 2021 with expectations that weren’t necessarily rooted in reality. We’ve had some signs of hope and optimism amidst a pandemic, to be sure: multiple approved vaccines, a slowing death rate, and GameStop’s stock prices. But the new year did not automatically solve all of the problems we faced in 2020, and I think many of us have not fully reckoned with that in the deeper parts of us. This life is both predictable and unpredictable: life will carry on, the sun will rise, the pandemic will eventually end. And yet we have no guarantee of a tomorrow. Our health is not something we can take for granted. Many of us have lost loved ones in a way that felt premature. This reality can be unsettling for many of us who thrive on predictability.
This is part of the reason why I’m so looking forward to our upcoming sermon series during the season of Lent, which will be working through the Servant Songs of Isaiah. These portions of the prophet’s writings point directly to the new things that God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ. We will read and hear about how God’s plan is far bigger that we may have thought, and far more unpredictable than we could have ever imagined. It is predictable and dependable in how we are assured that God will win, and God will save. But the way He goes about that is through a Servant who suffers for us, something no one could have foreseen.
In our lives, we can be assured of God’s love and sovereignty and His ultimate victory. But we have no assurances of what will happen along the way. Maybe this is worrisome or uncomfortable to you. If it is, I would invite you this Lent to consider giving up control and intentionally placing your whole trust in the Lord who loves you. Because in suffering and difficulties, God does not offer us easy answers or solutions—He simply offers more of Himself. He does not always take away our difficulties, but He declares that His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). Do you believe that? I’m working on it.
My deep hope and prayer for our congregation as we enter into this Lent is that we might see anew how God is inviting us into His grand plans to be a light for the nations, even in Fox Chapel. We can do this by always pointing toward Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and by living lives that are okay with not being in control, because we know the One who is.
Thank you so very much for your prayers for my family. Hopefully by the time you read this we will be snuggling with our newborn son and trying to keep his big brothers from jumping on him. Reverend Alex has generously given me two weeks of paternity leave, so I will be off for a time, but I cannot wait to come back and engage these things with you as we move forward. Until then we wait, and we hope, and we trust in our Lord who holds all things in His hands.
In service to the Lord Jesus and to you,
Rev. Ben Wulpi
*Editorial note: Rev. Ben & Stephanie’s baby boy, Andrew Benjamin, was born on Tuesday, Feb. 9.