An Absolute Clunker & Switchbacks

On Sunday I preached an absolute “clunker” of a sermon. By that, I mean it was bad. I’m not trying to be super-christian-humble… it really was a bad sermon.

There was no organization. I hadn’t spent enough time thinking through what I wanted to say. I tried to say too much. It wasn’t organized. It was just a clunker.

To be kind to myself (and if you know me, you know that’s a mantra I try to share with others and live by often but don’t), it was my first Sunday back after 7 weeks of not preaching. For me, preaching is better when I am in the rhythm of preaching. Getting into the groove each week of preparing, praying, studying, writing and refining helps me. I was out of rhythm. I am out of rhythm.

Do you feel that too? I look around and see the disruptions of daily life from all over the world: all that is happening in Afghanistan, Haiti, the Western US… and then there is COVID.

I think many of us are struggling to find rhythm in our lives and the result is clunkers everywhere. When we have the opportunity to be kind – clunker. When we get a chance to love instead of judge – clunker. When we see a need we can help with – clunker. When it’s just easier to be mean rather than compassionate – clunker.

And it’s understandable because our lives have been turned upside down for a year and a half! This is a hard season. And maybe it’s been a beautiful season too. It can be both. We had a baby in the middle of a pandemic! That has been amazing!

On Sunday what I should have said was what someone in our weekly Bible study said about the passage I preached on. I should have just got up there, quoted them, then let us all go home to lunch.

Micah 4:2 says, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God, so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths” (CEB). I asked the study group, “what do you think ‘God’s paths’ look like?” I thought that was a deep question. I was really proud of it. I expected them to lean back in their chairs and ponder the possibilities of what “God’s paths” might be.

Instead, one of them quickly said,

“they look like switchbacks.”

God’s paths are like switchbacks. If you live in the mountains, you know that switchbacks are really extreme curves in the road – like, 180 degree turns. It can feel like doing a u-turn in the middle of the mountains, with a steep drop-off right beside you.

God’s paths are like switchbacks. I love that. There is no room for rhythm on a mountain road full of switchbacks. You have to be ready to pull a u-turn just to stay on the highway. And maybe that’s how it is with God too.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t find some sort of rhythm for our lives: daily practices help keep me alive (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically). I preach better sermons when I’m in a rhythm too. But then there are those times when we are going along and BAM! switchback. Something happens (like a pandemic for instance!) and our daily routines are thrown completely out of sorts.

But Micah 4 seems to say this is how it is sometimes with God. A life full of connection, relationship, grace, love, joy, hope – it’s messy AND it’s intertwined with walking God’s full-of-switchback-paths.

Go for a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you will find some serious switchbacks. But you’ll also find unbelievable beauty. There are vistas that will stop you in your tracks, take the breath right out of your lungs. You’ll see wild turkey and elk, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, meteor showers and fog-filled-mountaintops.

God’s paths are like switchbacks. They challenge our patterns and, instead, invite us to notice the possibility around each corner. It can be so hard and disorienting, so be kind to yourself when you turn out a clunker. Then get back on the road and trust that around the next curve is something precious, something needed for this moment in your life.

I’m praying for you. I hope that as you ride the switchbacks of this life, you don’t ever feel alone. I hope you feel compassion and grace for yourself and those around you. I hope you feel that you are enough, that even your worst clunker can’t define you. Just keep walking the path and know that God is drawing you home.

Grace & Peace, Cole

2 thoughts on “An Absolute Clunker & Switchbacks

  1. I disagree with you regarding your sermon being a “clunker.” To use a sporting analogy…every play does not result in a touchdown. Hopefully…each play will at least advance the ball down the field. Your sermon may not have been a touchdown…but it did move the ball in a positive direction!

    1. Thanks, Mike! That is very gracious and a great way of looking at it. I guess being an Alabama fan, I’m used to scoring more often! haha. Seriously though, I do trust that God can use good/bad/OK sermons for good! Blessings to you!

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