I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
-Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:12
It's hard to know how to prepare for what's next these days, isn't it? It feels like we can't see very far into the future right now, and it's been that way for a long time. And the truth is, even when we think we're ready, we can never foresee all that life has in store.
The Tour de France is a 21 stage cycling race that takes place every July. It winds through the French mountains for over three weeks. Cyclists and race officials prepare all year for this extraordinary race, knowing that they'll have to deal with injuries, exhaustion, extreme weather, and gear repairs. But a few years ago, despite all their other preparation, no one had considered the possibility of llamas. Llamas in the fog. Fog Llamas.
Apparently some guy had purchased a bunch of llamas and let them roam free around the countryside to graze. But on the foggy morning of stage 8 in 2016, up in the highlands, they all decided to lay down on the road, because the pavement was warm, or because they were protesting how the alpaca sock market had cut into their profit share. I'm not actually sure, for the mind of a llama is impossible to discern.
Reports say the race directors were able to somehow clear the fog llamas off the road just in time right before 150 bikes came careening through them at breakneck pace. So everyone scrambled and it all worked out before any llamas came to harm.
But life is full of "fog llamas", these unforeseen circumstances that we could never have prepared for. And unfortunately, they aren't at all comical. I'm talking with a lot of you lately, who are trying to learn how to handle the unexpected. Some of those unexpected things have been heartbreaking. Some are surprising. Others are perplexing. But it's all hard.
You prepare for what you think the next family stage of life is going to be, the next season, the next school year, and you feel ready. But then something happens that you couldn't see coming. Tragedy hits. The pandemic continues. A job shifts. Depression takes root. A conflict occurs. A sure thing falls through. And you're left reeling.
We see it all the time right now because as a country (and world), things are so volatile. But the truth is, this is a constant in all of life. Things will rarely shake out in the specific ways we envision. So as followers of Jesus, if we want to stay healthy and faithful, our preparation for the future needs to go far deeper than preparing for possible circumstances. It has to include every circumstance.
This is why the path forward is to invite Jesus to transform all of who we are. This is why we fight hard to keep humility and surrender central to our faith, so that we might be prepared for anything and everything that we encounter. The difficult truth of life is that fog llamas are rarely easily cleared away. They are major events that can send us spiraling out of control. And in order to navigate our way through, our souls must be grounded so deeply in Jesus that they cannot be uprooted.
We'd prefer to know and strategize what's next.
But Jesus wants to develop character for what's next.
We'd prefer to envision scenarios to make sure we do the right action.
But Jesus wants us to become the kind of people that will always choose a loving response, even without time to brainstorm.
We want to know how to do well in difficult times.
Jesus wants us to know Him deeply in the difficult times.
If we are consistently slowing down to listen to Jesus, then we'll be able to encounter any number of fog llamas at different stages of our lives, and we'll be able to move with love and perseverance. It's ok if we don't know what's coming. We can walk in faithfulness and contentment because we are trusting that the grace of God is actually deep enough to prepare us for the hardest and unexpected moments we will encounter. The peace comes not from knowing what's next, but from Jesus walking with us through it all.
Like the old song says,
Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand,
But I know who holds the future, and I know who holds my hand...
Jesus, with all the unknowns of life, I need you to give me grace for each moment. Today I trust you with all my coming moments.