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Hornets In The Fern

By Michael Romkey

I often wish I had the power to know what the future holds.

This past Saturday, for example.

Saturday is the day I water house plants. I fill up a big watering can in the kitchen sink and cart it to the peace plant in the dining room — my starting point — eventually ending up on the second floor at the parachute plant in the bedroom corner.

Midway through my watering routine Saturday found me on the front porch, where a big Boston fern sits next to a bench. As I was watering the fern, I noticed a hornet buzzing above the plant. Then another. Then another, and another, and another.

It was then I realized a gaggle of hornets had burrowed into the plant to build themselves a cozy insect home in the potting soil. In watering the plant, I was irrigating their little bungalow. Do hornets like to have their bungalows irrigated? Emphatically not.

I managed to get stung only once before retreating back into the house. The sting on my right forearm burned but wasn’t particularly painful. Later, I awoke in the middle of the night, the sting itching like crazy and skin swollen. I went downstairs, took two ibuprofen for the swelling, and iced it before going back to sleep.

I am the sort of person who expends a certain amount of mental energy thinking about various things that might happen in the future. I like to think I’m better than average at spotting problems before they appear on the horizon. I might not solve as many problems as I think I do before they materialize, but I’m convinced it’s a skill I possess.

Nevertheless, there are times, as with the Saturday hornets episode, when there’s just no way to know what the future has in store.

There is a passage in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus displays a startling degree of foreknowledge about what’s going to happen. It’s the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The disciples, who so often seem to play the straight man to Jesus, ask Him about where they would observe Passover.

Jesus says: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there” (Mark 14:13-15).

So the disciples go into town. Boom. It happens just as Jesus said.

This passage has always struck me. How does Jesus know these things with such specificity? Jesus doesn’t say, “Go into town, ask around, and I’m sure you’ll find a place.” He tells them they’ll meet a guy carrying a jar of water. He says the guy will go to a house. Talk to the house’s owner, Jesus says; he’ll have a room already prepared for us. Just tell him it’s for me, the Teacher.

It all happens exactly as Jesus says.

How did Jesus do that? Was it a prediction? Did Jesus look into the future and somehow know the disciples would run into a man with the water jar who would be coming from a house where there was a guest room ready and waiting? Or did Jesus’ have the power to look down on time from the outside — as someone once told me was God’s relationship with time — like someone scrolling through a YouTube video to the part with the necessary information?

I don’t know.

And I don’t know what the future holds. Not in any reliable and useful way, and certainly not in any detail. If hornets are nesting in the fern, I might only find out when it’s too late. For us as human beings, time’s arrow points in only one direction. Our comprehension of the future is fuzzy at best. As a consequence, we sometimes get stung.

Though I do not know the future, I can relax in the knowledge that God does. He will make everything thing work out in the end, in His own time.

Reflection

Think about your fears for the future — the things you cannot control and the things you don’t even know because they haven’t happened yet. Now, take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to help you release this to God and to trust him. Pray for peace that goes beyond understanding (Philippians 4:4-7). Finally, put your energy into something you can impact.

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