In the space of less than 24 hours last week, I had two experiences with the effects of this Covid 19 virus that have given me much to ponder.
First, I encountered an angry man in my dentist’s office who was flaunting his freedom by not wearing a mask and by roaming around among the 3 of us who were masked, waiting to pay our dentists’s services. The man made a point of getting unnecessarily close to us and speaking to us. The office staff, all masked to protect all of us, including the unmasked man, did a masterful job of staying calm, doing their jobs and then wiping down all surfaces as soon as he left.
The next day, driving to an appointment, I realized that I had turned right instead of left as I was looking for a particular tree on a tree-lined boulevard which my friend had described to me. As soon as I realized I was going the wrong direction, so I pulled into a driveway so I could turn around. Backing out of a stranger’s driveway, my eyes caught sight of a small sign on the ground near the driveway.
“We’ll make it”, the sign declared, and I felt tears spring to my eyes.
We will make it, but what shape will we be in when all of this pandemic passes?
We will make it, but what will we have lost? And among us, who are the ones we will have lost?
We will make it, but which of us will be able only to survive and who will be the ones to thrive? Who will gain by this pandemic, and who will have lost everything or what matters most?
As a child, my dad taught me to “sit steady in the boat” when life is tossing me around.
As an adult, I’ve written a book entitled “Sitting Strong”, and yet, as faithfully as I have tried to do that, I admit or confess (take your pick) that when the angry man without a mask was circling around me in a close space, I was unsettled. I also admit that when I saw that sign in a stranger’s driveway, I had to pause and allow that small sign to nudge me back to my center, the center where I remember the counsel of Julian of Norwich:
All will be well, and all will be well. And all manner of things will be well.
Those famous words of Julian of Norwich have been repeated by many during this time in which we are living. Julian was an English woman who lived her life in the tiny cell attached to the church in Norwich, England, in the 14th century. In meditation, she had several visions, which she carefully wrote down, and in the war-torn, pandemic-plagued time in which she lived, she maintained her steady faith in the love of God. When people came to her with their troubles, her counsel remained the same. Her writings were compiled into a book entitled Revelation of Divine Love, which was the first printed work by a woman. Here is the larger text from which the above quote is taken:
He did not say
You will not be troubled, you will not be belabored,
you will not be disquieted;
but he said,
You will not be overcome.
God wants us to pay attention to these words and always
to be strong in faithful trust, in well-being and in woe,
for he loves us and delights in us, and so he wishes us
to love him and delight in him and trust greatly in him,
and All will be well, and all will be well.
And all manner of things will be well.
Those words of assurance have come down to followers of Christ and friends of God through these seven centuries. Framed, they hang in my study, a lovely gift from my friend and companion in faith Betty Cody. Whatever is raging in my life, those words call me back over and over to the assurance that is all through Holy Scripture: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31: 6) And in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20b: I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
While our hope and faith are being challenged right now by external circumstances, it is in these uncertain, chaotic times that we discover the truth of scripture and of people like Julian who reassured the troubled, the traumatized and the terrified that God would never abandon them. Indeed, there are times when most of us feel that we have been abandoned or that God has gone on vacation and not left his forwarding address.
While the incident in my dentist’s office only was unsettling — and it was the arrogance of hate that unsettled me — that is nothing compared to losing a loved one to this awful virus or losing a business, a job, your life savings. But the worst of things have the potential of causing us to wrestle with God, who is ornery enough to never let us go, and it is often in the questioning, the doubting, the wrestling that hope becomes stronger and more vibrant.
God loves us so much that no matter how far we drift away, he is always waiting for us to return to his welcoming embrace.
And God loves us so much that our wrestling with him somehow increases our hope.
How about you? What is the most audacious question you would like to ask God?
What unanswered questions have haunted you, but out of fear, you have not had the nerve to talk about them with another person?
If you have children, do you allow them to ask questions freely?
My belief about God is that he loves us so much that he can handle our biggest doubts, our loudest laments and our greatest protests.
(And if I am wrong, I still believe that he loves me — unconditionally, and will forgive my wobbly faith.)
Grace to you — peace to you — and health to you — in this time of pandemic…