“Just do the next right thing, Havah.”
That’s what my friend told me to do as I sat at the bottom of a dark pit in my life. I was at the proverbial “bottom”, and while there largely due to my own destructive choices, the pain was immense, it was dark, and I couldn’t see my way out, or how it was ever going to be any better. I had experienced immense loss, rejection and betrayal and everything hurt – my body, my brain, and my heart.
I know everyone’s experience of grief is different, but for me, it’s a lot like trying to walk through waist-high mud. Everything slows down – physically and mentally. Everything takes a lot more exertion to start, and finish. Even my breathing gets labored as my body focuses on how to just get through the next thing. I sigh a lot trying to catch my breath.
It seemed like I had lots of choices and no choices all at the same time, and I was paralyzed. But my friend in her (God given) wisdom could see that and gave me something that I could do. The next right thing. I still couldn’t come close to seeing the top of my pit – but I could do the next right thing. I don’t have any recollection of a rush of wind, a certain knowing, an audible voice of God directing me – but rather lots of baby steps moving in a different direction than I had been going before. In retrospect, I can see God’s direction in those “next right things,” but it’s taken some years to gain that perspective.
It’s through this lens that I filter our passage, and peer at the disciples through this week. They had just been through an emotional wringer. I cannot imagine what it was like to walk through those last days with Jesus and to see him brutally killed. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fear and sadness they experienced, and then the wonder of seeing Him alive again. I’m fairly certain if I had been there when Jesus returned and was preparing them for His ascension, that I would have been the one begging him not to go, no matter what Spirit he was promising to send in his place. They experienced a lot of grief in a very short period of time. And grief is disorienting.
Ambiguity seems to be the word we are bandying about when we talk about our passage this week: the disciples experiencing the uncertainty of life without the physical presence of Jesus. They were unsure of what to expect next, knowing that Jesus had promised them the Spirit, and they found themselves in a wait and hold pattern.
In the midst of all of that, they were also processing the pain of betrayal from Judas, and his death. They missed Jesus. I bet that even though they were hurt by Judas, they missed him too. I wonder if Judas was sarcastic – if he made them laugh. I wonder when they were paired up and sent out by Jesus who was paired with Judas. I wonder who of the twelve he irritated the most. (none of this related to our topic – just random things that I wonder!) The point is – he was one of them for THREE years. They did life in close community with Judas for three years and his life was woven into the fabric of theirs. And then he was gone, and Jesus was gone and the political climate was scary and what do you do when you are sad, sad, sad, and everything is hard?
They did what they knew to do – their own version of “the next right thing.” They went back to the things Jesus taught them. They prayed together and asked for God’s guidance. They worked in unity and came to a unanimous decision. They did not have Jesus, and were waiting for the Holy Spirit. They were experiencing grief and uncertainty. But they didn’t fall apart or run away. They just sat in the ambiguity and did their best to do the “next right thing.”
As we look at this portion of Acts on Sunday, what do you do when things are ambiguous and you are uncertain about what choice to make? Have you ever felt paralyzed and defeated or just sad, sad, sad? Have you ever just done the “next right thing?” How does that inform the way you read this section of scripture? What do you think about how the disciples dealt with their own period of waiting and uncertainty? Do you think you might have done it differently? I’d love to sit on the comfy couches with you and hear your thoughts over a cup of coffee. (Seriously – if anyone wants to do coffee this week, I’d love to chat about this or anything else under the sun!!!)
Grace and Peace friends. See you Sunday.
Havah is a single graduate student and Jesus loving foster momma who is passionate about advocating for those who are vulnerable, underserved and unseen. She's the recipient of truckloads of grace and mercy, lover of coffee (with cream and sugar, thank you), and knows far too few of the Grace Church community. She asks that you message her on social media or email her if you'd like to share life over coffee!