The gift of urgency

In the Image

June 15, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 12
Ed Olfert | Columnist
Jesus teaching from a fishing boat on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. (Photo by Annalisa Jones, Shutterstock)

An impassioned rant by a grandchild included these words: “Opa, why are you not dead yet?”

Why indeed.

The comment regarding my deserved death connects to the story of a recent event in my life.

I had been asked to do some welding on a large metal frame at the local ball diamond. When fully completed, this structure will become a batter’s cage. The frame needed some repair high up, about four metres off the ground. A local contractor offered me the use of his telescopic loader, colloquially known as a “zoom boom,” to lift me to that height.

The day that my portable welder and I scheduled for the job was a Monday. Joe the contractor and his zoom boom were not going to be available on a Monday. Yet, I was ready and eager. “I can do this off my tall step ladder,” I suggested to my wife. “How hard can it be?”

Holly expressed concern that it could be at least a little hard. “Okay, but I’ll come along to steady the ladder,” she said. “It’s very windy out there!” So it was that we found ourselves setting up, windy indeed, on ground where the snow had only recently disappeared, ground that was covered with dry grass.

I was feeling pretty good about my progress, but then Holly shouted up at me that she could no longer support my ladder because she was fighting fire in the grass directly below me with a shovel. I glanced down long enough to be assured that she was doing that efficiently, that great danger to the village was being mitigated, and went back to work. Suddenly, there was no more step ladder under me, only two metres of air.

I went down hard. I was, I thought, uninjured, and within a few minutes was up on the ladder again, finishing the repair.

Three days later, my single functioning eye developed an internal bleed. For close to a week, I was mostly unseeing, driven and led to specialist appointments, lying on my couch, cared for and scolded by most everyone in my life.

I have little doubt that the tumble and the eye issue are related. I have little doubt that if I was in fact more patient, more careful, more cautious, that my eyes and my ears would have had a fair chance of serving me well till the end of my days. When I deny that, some become short with me.

There’s a story in the Gospel of Luke about Jesus teaching a group of folks on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd surges, and Jesus is squeezed toward the water. He asks that a fishing boat be brought alongside, and he finishes his preaching from on deck. The episode ends with a great fishing tale as well.

I’ve no doubt that story wouldn’t have played out so well if Jesus had decided to wait for the weekend for Joe to bring the zoom boom. There is a time for urgency.

I have a unique gifting of qualities, as we all do. That quality of urgency, sometimes defined more as impatience, has often been derided as harmful, negative, and inferior to a patient approach. But I challenge that assumption. Every quality that you or I embody, every one, has both a bright side and a shadow side. Every quality needs to be carefully portioned out in the right moment. Every quality must be continually evaluated: what is the most effective approach, the most useful, the most faithful? Do we create blessings, or do we create harm?

In the end, I’ve got a great story to embellish, and I give thanks that I’m again somewhat sighted. 

Ed Olfert lives in Laird, Saskatchewan, and can be reached at

Read more In the Image columns:
Standing ready for the end
‘An old nose’ 
Gentleness behind bars
Dump truck affirmation
Welding a Mennonite reality

Jesus teaching from a fishing boat on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. (Photo by Annalisa Jones, Shutterstock)

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