The picture on the next page hangs in my church office. Parishioners often ask if there is a story behind it. There is indeed—one that’s quite spiritually meaningful to me.
The photo comes from my days as a chaplain at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, in the early 1990s. I’d been working at Brock for about one year, and I was getting very discouraged. No one seemed to know there was a chaplaincy ministry on the campus. I was unable to get any visibility or publicity. Nothing was happening. I couldn’t even get any group activities going. So I was growing quite depressed about the lack of challenging work and the lack of meaningful encounters. Frequently I found myself in desperate prayer regarding this ministry. I even contemplated trying to get a call to some other ministry. “Lord,” I asked in my prayers, “how in the world can I make this whole thing work? How can this ministry be viable? Where is it going?”
Despite my discouragement I tried to be faithful and disciplined, so every day I bicycled to Brock in the morning and back home at suppertime. Five kilometers each way, including up the Niagara escarpment. Always the bicycle. That’s how I stayed in shape. Then one day it rained hard when it came time for me to leave for Brock. So I decided, just for once, to take the bus.
The picture you are looking at is of me sitting on my little plastic box that held my working files, and I’m holding a little umbrella that’s actually broken. A reporter from the St. Catharines Standard drove by and thought it looked like a weird photo opportunity. So he snapped the picture without me knowing, then introduced himself and asked me who I was. The next day, on the front page of Section B of the Standard
—which is the absolute “must have” paper for every household in the Niagara Peninsula, weekly circulation of more than 205,000—was this large picture, with a caption under it that read, “Rev. Nick Overduin, chaplain at Brock University, waits for a bus in the rain on Glenridge Avenue.”
The reason this picture means so much to me is that God answered all my anxious prayers when I was doing absolutely nothing at all. I was just sitting. All of a sudden the chaplaincy ministry at Brock got more publicity than piles of money from Classis Niagara could have ever bought. I was flabbergasted. Everybody started coming up to me on campus. “Hey, we saw you in the paper. Hey, are you the guy who was sitting in the rain? What is chaplaincy?”
Everyone saw this picture! While I was doing absolutely nothing, God fixed everything.
Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10). We are not in control. God is in control. Sometimes you have to really let go of everything in order to see that. A recent book deals with why physicians sometimes make a wrong diagnosis. The book argues that it’s because they sometimes jump to conclusions. They may have seen this set of symptoms before. Or they feel the patient is whining. Or they don’t like the kind of clothes the patient is wearing. Or they just read an article about this pattern of symptoms.
. . . One of the professors from a medical school says in the book that she always gives student doctors this advice: Don’t just do something, stand there.
I know faith has a very active component. And I realize that if I had not been disciplined about going faithfully to my office at Brock every day, this picture would never have been taken. So I don’t advocate doing zilch. I continued to work energetically at Brock in the five years I was there. It became an interesting and fulfilling and active ministry. I also began wearing clerical collar shirts along with blue jeans (giving both the formal and informal impression at the same time) so as to make the ministry more visible.
So I don’t advocate an overly laid-back approach to life or to faith. Yet the lesson I learned that day was indeed lasting and profound: The Lord says to each of us, Be still and know that I am God.
About the Author
Rev. Nick Overduin is pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Toronto.