“Can I talk to you for a minute in a conference room?”
A co-worker asked me that a few weeks ago. My first thought was of course, “I’m about to get fired.” Even though this was a peer and not a superior, I still thought that maybe I was about to get the ax. Call me paranoid, I just assume that when a girlfriend says, “We need to talk,” they’re about to dump you and when someone at work asks to “talk to you for a minute,” they’re about to fire you. I admit, it’s a very sweaty existence I lead.
But when we went into the conference room, the one that smells like dry erase markers and disappointment, he turned to me and said something I wasn’t expecting, “I watched someone die yesterday.”
This came as a shock. I had already started mentally packing up my stuff and emptying my cubicle, but my coworker Brian caught me off guard.
While at the gym the day before, Brian had seen a man have a heart attack on one of the machines. A crowd quickly formed, but confusion reigned. The gym employees were slow to act and 911 was not called immediately. Brian prayed with a handful of other people and comforted the man the best he knew how, but by the time the ambulance showed up, it was too late. With his wife standing in the crowd of exercisers, a stranger at the gym passed away.
So on an otherwise uneventful morning in an otherwise ordinary conference room, Brian was replaying the whole situation. With the laser focus we all seem to inherit when feeling guilty, he was watching the film of the day before looking for something he could have done differently. There must have been something. Anything that would have saved that man.
That’s a horrible moment that maybe you’re familiar with too. Perhaps the circumstances were different, but somewhere in your life, there’s been a moment you wish happened differently. You lost your job. You lost your marriage. You were too slow to act in a car crash. Your son, the one who used to laugh so hard when you’d build towers of wooden blocks for him to knock over is running away from you and you’re left wondering what you could have done differently.
I don’t know. I don’t know the specifics of your situation. There are some circumstances where we are called to act and have the chance to do something and we don’t. But I think far more often we make the same mistake Brian made. We look back on yesterday or last year or ten years ago and we think we could have done something differently. And if I could tell you the same thing I told Brian, it would be pretty simple.
“God didn’t ask you to be God that day.”
God didn’t turn the reins over to you that day. Just like he didn’t ask Brian to handle a stranger’s aorta tear in the gym, he didn’t ask you to be the God of any particular situation. He is still God. He is still in control. He is still on the throne. And when we act otherwise, it must pain him so.
Because it hurt me to watch Brian that day. It hurt to see him running through scenarios and CPR techniques and a thousand other “what ifs” that morning in the conference room. He had a limitless supply of things that a good person should have done and hear was shamefully trying each and every one on for size.
Maybe you do too. About your marriage and your job and your childhood and your family. And while I’d never encourage you to shirk the responsibility and accountability God gives each of us, I can promise you one thing, he didn’t ask you to be God that day. He’ll never do that. You get to just be Brian. Or Pam or Sue or Felix. That’s enough. That’s how he planned it. For yesterday and today and tomorrow.