Surviving the Worst Case (or, Finding a Stranger in Your Kitchen at 4am)

Recently a friend of mine woke up at 4am after hearing a loud noise in the downstairs of his farmhouse. He drifted out of bed in a fog – it was a hot summer night – and mumbled middle-of-the-night admonishments at his dog who he figured must have busted through the mudroom screen.

He wandered the dark ground floor of the expansive farmhouse wearing only his boxers. He went into the mudroom: no dog. He peeked in each of the pitch black rooms: no dog. He sleepily walked into the kitchen, his bare feet scuffing on the linoleum.

His wife had woken up at the sound of the bang. She thought of their baby, only a few days old. She thought of their four other children sleeping in various rooms of the house. She heard her husband’s footsteps creaking over the old floorboards. Then she heard him say something she couldn’t quite believe, something that indicated her worst fear was taking place that night.

“What are you doing in our house?” he asked.

The firmness of his voice crashed through the night.

* * * * *

What are your worst case scenarios? Do you have nagging fears that reside somewhere in the back of your mind, the kind that when given an ounce of nourishment come roaring into your frontal lobe?

I had a lot of worst case scenarios dashing around in my mind when we left on our four-month trip:

As soon as I began driving the 40-foot bus, I worried about getting it stuck somewhere.

As soon as I started driving through the mountains and saw the emergency truck ramps, I worried about losing our brakes.

As soon as we got about halfway through the trip, I wondered what would happen if I didn’t land another big project before we got back.

Yeah, you probably already know this, but all those things happened. It was almost like God shook his head sadly and said, You know, if you’re going to be so captivated by the fear of these things that might happen, I might as well walk you through them. That way, you’ll see that you can survive it. And then you can get on with life. This is my gift to you.

I don’t know if that’s how it works or not. I don’t know if that’s how God thinks. But there is a peace that comes in the midst of worst-case scenarios that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. There’s an incredibly tangible sense of presence. The soap bubble bursts, and while I realize that yes, this worst-case scenario stuff sucks, I’ve had another, even more startling realization.

I can get through it.

* * * * *

My friend found a man covered in blood in his kitchen. He talked to the man in a calm, firm voice.

“What are you doing in my house?”

“Can I call to get you some help?” The man didn’t want help.

“You need to get out of my house.”

After a few minutes, the man (his system saturated with drugs) walked out of the house and down the lane. He was later apprehended by the police – they had been looking for him.

Meanwhile, in the upstairs bedroom, my friend’s wife felt something strange in the midst of her worst-case scenario: peace. When her husband came back up to bed, their first thoughts weren’t about fortifying their house or moving somewhere else – their first thoughts were prayers for the man who was so lost that he would wander barefoot through the woods and on to their middle-of-nowhere property. So lost.

And this, I think, is the beautiful thing about trusting: it prepares a path of peace inside of us, a path that we are often unaware of until the worst-case scenario comes ripping through the undergrowth, tearing at the branches, stripping off the bark.

Then, there it is.

A new path.

13 Replies to “Surviving the Worst Case (or, Finding a Stranger in Your Kitchen at 4am)”

  1. So glad everything is okay your friend and his family!

    I was just realizing the same thing last evening after surviving another worst case scenario. I still can not believe what happened, but now I know (again!) that I can survive things I thought I couldn’t.

    You know when conversations circle around to the scariest and/or freakiest things that could happen. And someone mentions how awful it would be to wake up with a bug caught in your ear?
    Yes, that happened to me yesterday… woke up with a helicopter trying to take off in my head. Spent the morning at the ER, then another few hours at the ear specialist before the bug was finally removed…

    It was awful! I survived! So now future risks will be easier to take… which could be good or bad.

  2. Shawn, wonderful post. You have an excellent feel for the structure of a good story as well as a very important theme. I love following you and your family on the bus.

  3. Oh, fear. My dark and and tempting friend. It’s close to anger, the way we sort of blow the little wisp of flame into a full on fire. I often conjur fear out of nothing; making dinner, reading a book, a call up a fear and fire it up. Awful, and not smart. Still. You’re exactly right. What’s the worst that can happen? I don’t want to handle those worst case scenarios, but I can with Him, if and when I need to.

  4. It’s easy for me to jump to the worst case scenario when I’m thinking / worrying about things. Most of the time whatever I’m thinking about isn’t the worst case scenario that actually happens. . The irony is that when bad stuff happens it’s amost always not a blip on my worry radar. We just found out my husband has stage 4 prostate cancer. I had cancer surgery in December. I never even considered either of those as something to be worried about. My husband had surgery yesterday. Sitting in the waiting room alone I had such a sense of God’s peace in the middle of it. The whole journey through cancer for me has been a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. He does walk with us through the fears for sure. Right before they wheeled me into the operating room, I had such a sense of God saying to me… just let go. I’m learning not to count my anxiety before it’s hatched. I don’t want to let my fears for the future stop me from missing the amazing daily journey along the way.

  5. I should know these truths. I always think I do know that God has plans for me, good ones, but then my worst case scenarios happen and I find my heart heavy and unbelieving. Maybe you’re right, that He’s trying to help us cut down our own fear and find a better path. Thanks for writing this. At least I know I’m not alone.

  6. My “adventure” began with the return of a dull ache between my shoulder blades. I had experienced it during the night, but it went away. Now I was at a women’s conference and it returned. I realized I couldn’t make it through the day with the discomfort I was experiencing. I headed for home, but decided to stop by the ER nearby and get something to ease the ache. It was almost two weeks before I saw home again. My “ache” required quadruple bypass surgery. No heart attack, just a diagnosis of blockage and surgery. It was the most amazing experience of God’s Presence that I have ever had. The people God sent across my path during that time ministered to me and I was able to minister to some. It has given me a new perspective on life and its challenges. God is for us! Nothing touches us without His permission and He works all things together for good. He said He would (Romans 8:28) and He does. When we come to that realization, every day is an adventure in living!

  7. “And this, I think, is the beautiful thing about trusting: it prepares a path of peace inside of us, a path that we are often unaware of until the worst-case scenario comes ripping through the undergrowth, tearing at the branches, stripping off the bark.”

    Great as always, Shawn. :) What a crazy experience, too!

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