I couldn’t sleep on Wednesday in the early morning hours. No problem. I went to bed early the evening before, yet kind of hungry after a track race on Tuesday evening. On the way home from the running event my wife mentioned that our youngest son wanted me to take him to Waffle House this week. So what was I craving by 5am after a short night’s sleep???…Waffle House, of course. I didn’t wake my son. It would be a solo breakfast and I would take him in the days to come. It’s summer. Two trips for greasy food in the same week, never hurt anyone.
I drove to the closest Waffle House, the one we passed last night on the way home. It was frightening, to be perfectly honest. Pre-5am was looking like a 15 minute wait for what reason I couldn’t figure out. I was completely ignored. The young female patrons were drunk and up to no good. I thought how boring my Tuesday night seemed in comparison to theirs. I was thankful for boredom. The two staff members seemed be elsewhere, on another planet. The staff were no where in the realm of noticing my existence. The other patrons in the restaurant seemed somewhat suspicious. It just wasn’t an altogether “good feeling stomach” kind of environment. My naivete about the world and my love for Durham often have me in the oddest of situations and with more comfort in all sorts of places then is always in my best interest. This time I thought better of it. And even if I was mistaken, I was hungry and prospects appeared bleak. So I got up and left–hungry. What to do? My coffee shop, Brueggers, would not open for another half hour.
I drove past the turn for my house. I drove past Brueggers. I wandered north on 15-501 to the next Waffle House. It was at this establishment on October 9, 2003 I remembered that I ate in the wee hours of the morning. Could have been October 10th but at that point I didn’t know dates, times, or street names.
But this morning, I was just a little tired, and certain I was at the Waffle House in Durham, North Carolina on Hillsborough Road. I was clear headed enough to even snap off a couple of photos. My meal on this particular morning was fine. Nothing noteworthy, but loads of nostalgia.
Almost 13 years ago, I waited and waited and waited for George Edward Linney, IV to be born. Kristen was persevering like a champ, by the end of the whole apocalyptic debacle of perfection it had been 47 hours, ending in a C-section. George was born, 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and tall as all get out. He never was going to enter the world by natural means, but good old Dr. Michael Fried went in and got him while chatting with me about Scripture greats like Abraham, then Moses. Fried’s a Jew. I’m a Christian. We had much in common and we still do. Ran into him on Father’s Day, ironically, at Brueggers, and told him in no uncertain terms, “I thank God for you.”
Back then, October 2003, I was so tired I had to get away from the hospital for a few hours. I had been to the hospital chapel and on my knees. Helped my wife in the bath. Seen a nurse come, go, and come back again. Twelve hours after the nurse left one shift and returned for the next, was nearly to much to bear. You don’t think you can shock veteran labor and delivery nurses, until this one said, “What are you still doing here?” Kristen and I asking ourselves the same question, and nearly cried.
I had to get away. I had to figure out if the world was still turning. I had to figure out if my heart was still beating. By all accounts Kristen was very much alive. By pretty good computer certainty, George IV, was in there just fine, but moving at a snails pace. All professional participants and those of us who were far from professionals hoped the child would pick up some velocity and distance. In hindsight, it seems that Kristen’s exceptional fitness enabled her to simply persevere an extremely slow labor that in days of old would likely have ended in death for both she and the unborn child. Dr. Fried indicated that was not how this labor in 2003 was going to go down. It didn’t. George is at camp now, probably preparing to paddle some whitewater river that I danced down thirty years ago like the mighty Green or the Tuckaseegee in Western North Carolina.
A LESSON IN PERSEVERANCE
I have been a parent for almost 13 years, married almost 14, a church planter for six. Some days, and I say this generously and without remorse, I think the game is simply to make it to the end. If I could just make it to the end of life as a Christian, as a father, as a husband, and possibly as a pastor (or at least a practitioner or clergy member who offers some value to the body of Christ). Are those goals not worthy enough? A lot of our world tells us that we have to do more, be great, excel in all things, get caffeinated, and win versus those around us and defeat the forces of evil. Early July, age 41, and how I have come to know Jesus, tell me an alternate story. Of course, there is great work in staying afloat, but what are we trying to win? Who are we trying to defeat?
Hebrews says: And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (NIV from Heb 10:21-22)
Jesus says in Matthew’s closing verse: And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (NIV from Matt 28:20)
If God has done the heavy lifting, maybe we ought to rest, with less thought of when work in the laborious grinding sense, finds us again and all the ways that this work defines our self-worth. It is work enough to actually persevere in rest. This may sound lazy, but trust for just a moment that most of us reading are not very lazy. The opposite is more our struggle. We are busy.
I pray for your persevering heart, soul, and body this morning.
George Linney serves as pastor of a unique CBF church start in Durham, North Carolina, tobaccotrailchurch.com. He can also be found out and about promoting running for fleetfeetcarrboro.com. He is a Furman and Duke Divinity grad and celebrating six years as pastor of the Tobacco Trail Church, trying to find rest where he can, trying to find work where he can.