September 1, 2015
I don’t care for tunnels. This has been a pretty consistent fear. While in my twenties, I went on a bus trip from Georgia to Maryland with a church I was serving as youth pastor and choir director. The trip was lovely and fun-filled. However, after several hours, the bus driver alerted us that we would be soon heading toward Maryland, and we would soon pass through a series of underwater tunnels. The mood instantly changed. Most of us were terrified, and a palpable anxiety was building due to the fact that none of us had been this way before.
We remained silent as we entered the first tunnel. The entrance was fairly steep, and it grew darker as we descended. The dim lighting in the passageway wasn’t bright or hope-inducing enough for a vehicle full of people who had never experienced such a tunnel. I instinctively held my breath, for it was as if my body knew I was underwater. It was a mysterious, liminal space, and I didn’t like it.
As I looked around, I noticed some whispered prayers, while others read their Bibles. When the bus reached the light and was topside again, someone erupted in a loud shout, “Praise God! We made it!” It was an opportunity for a collective laugh in agreement with the wise woman. We travelers weaved in and out of the other channels less afraid after that declaration, praying and celebrating until we arrived at Ocean City, Maryland unscathed, relieved and grateful.
The life of a church is reflected in my experience. The symbolic tunnel is always daunting. As humans, we are rarely comforted or comfortable when approaching mystery. Fear, loss, mourning, nostalgia and resistance are often our travel mates. However, God uses mystery to welcome us into the spiritual practice of trusting God. The church is the very place where we are called to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, the safe space where we walk together, even into a thick fog of unknowing.
When we are thrust into mystery is when God does God’s best work. It is an opportunity to discover authentic reliance on the Spirit to see us through our challenges, while knowing we shall reach our destination together. Surrender can be difficult. However, we must be willing to move when the Spirit says move.
I still don’t care for tunnels. Yet, I invite us to travel on, for they are the only path to where God would have us go. Let us embrace the mystery and experience together God’s blessed assurance. – Rev. Kelle Brown