I remember one morning from a few years ago. It was very early, before the sun was even up, and I was driving my high school daughter to a waiting bus for her Washington DC class trip. I hugged her and watched the bus pull away, and on the way home, saw the sun was peeking up over the horizon. There were no cars on the road. I remember that the color of everything turned orangey-pink, and something about the color and shadow of that early morning made every building look two-dimensional, like if you tapped at a wall, the whole thing would crumble and fold like a house of cards.
I remember thinking it was like a movie set, before the actors all took their places. Like our varied roles in our jobs and friend groups and activities and hobbies and communities and all of it were just temporary. Like none of it was real.
This is what it feels like now.
With everything cancelled and all our routines disrupted, this will be a time to figure out just who we are apart from all those roles and titles. To see what we’re made of and what’s really important.
My thoughts about a lot of this were crystallized in a live Facebook talk by Christian speaker Beth Moore. She was preaching from the eighth chapter of Romans, and specifically Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us.
The ‘us’, she said is, of course the church, you and me. But how can we make sense of this God who is for us when we can’t even get into many of our churches, when there are no services, when the contact we have with our spiritual leaders is broken. In the days after 9/11, Beth said, the churches were packed, everyone filled with fear and focused on things bigger than themselves. But in these unprecedented days with the church doors closed, it feels like we’re a flock without a shepherd. Or are we?
Beth believes this is a time of pruning for the church, and I agree. It’s a time to cut back that which does not serve us in order for us to come back with more quality and purity of heart. It’s a time to figure out what we actually believe.
When we can no longer rely on the religious habits and schedule that have served us our whole lives, when there’s no boxes to check to tell us if we’re on the right road, and no local or world leader who can guide us in the daily practice of faith, where does it leave us? When the mass is cancelled and the doors are shut and there are no sign-up sheets for service projects, what then? Will we still worship? Will we still serve?
If there’s no one spoon-feeding us a daily or weekly homily to teach us the meaning of a scripture while we sit idly back, will we still read? When there’s no one at the front of our church directing our words and singing, will we pray?
Because we can, you know. There are ways online to connect in with your local or global church, and you should. There are homilies online and prescribed prayers to be said, but at the heart of it, your path and your work through this time will be to determine what it is you really believe, to develop a relationship with Jesus who is present with you. The Holy Spirit has not left us. The Father has not abandoned his place. We have what we need in this time to build a faith that will not fold or crumble in the light of day. I believe that could be the fruit of this scary, unpredictable time. Without distraction, without a schedule, without prescription, with some movement from us, we could come to know this God we’ve heard about our whole lives, and feel as known by Him as we’ve always been, face to face, just when we need Him the most.
Note: If you’re looking for resources (books, podcasts, music) that may help you reach out and connect with God who is crazy about you, please let me know. I’m praying for you.
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