To the Church in Exile,
Good morning. I hope you are experiencing the reality of God’s mercies, new to you, this morning.
When Pastor Doug first started the practice of these daily devotionals, I honestly thought about the one I would write near the end of Lent when all this pandemic quarantine stuff was over. I look back and can’t help but chuckle at my optimism. I’ve traded my glass half full attitude these days.
Instead, I’m honestly feeling a bit stuck in a season I didn’t see coming and didn’t choose and don’t see ending soon. The uncertainty has a weight on my body. Today’s Psalm is just this cry to God:
Psalm 31:9-16 (Common English Bible Translation)
9 Have mercy on me, Lord, because I’m depressed.
My vision fails because of my grief,
as do my spirit and my body.
10 My life is consumed with sadness;
my years are consumed with groaning.
Strength fails me because of my suffering;
my bones dry up.
11 I’m a joke to all my enemies,
still worse to my neighbors.
I scare my friends,
and whoever sees me in the street runs away!
12 I am forgotten, like I’m dead,
completely out of mind;
I am like a piece of pottery, destroyed.
13 Yes, I’ve heard all the gossiping,
terror all around;
so many gang up together against me,
they plan to take my life!
14 But me? I trust you, Lord!
I affirm, “You are my God.”
15 My future is in your hands.
Don’t hand me over to my enemies,
to all who are out to get me!
16 Shine your face on your servant;
save me by your faithful love!
I feel this way daily. Overwhelmed by the grief, yet also saying to Jesus: “I trust you. You are my God.” Some days I am 100% sure this is truth. Other days, I need to read this Psalm or pray or simply repeat that truth back to myself to remind myself. Telling Jesus you trust him doesn’t mean there isn’t grief over real life circumstances. For me this means being honest with Jesus about where I am, how I’m feeling, and knowing Jesus hears me.
I don’t know about you, but every single one of my conversations in the past 4 weeks have included something about this virus or its ripple effect. I’ve also been fascinated with how people are using their time these days. There are some of you that have cleaned out all your closets already, taught your children how to multiply fractions, made gourmet meals every night, read 10 books, watched all the trending Netflix shows, and taken this time to turn your jungle yard into the cover of Sunset magazine. Those things are so awesome. In case you just read that list and got stressed out, receive the freedom to be less productive in this season. Meanwhile, I opened my closet on Friday and decided I just could not handle a pandemic and that disarray in the same week. Too much. I closed that door. I did complete my first puzzle though, so maybe that tells you a bit about my priorities.
Instead of listening to all the things I’m hearing I should do with this time, I’ve been listening to things that point me toward Jesus and gently remind me of who God is. For me, that is worship music and podcasts. One such podcast this week was by Emily P. Freeman which you can listen to or read the transcript of. In it, she prays this Psalm and has listeners do an exercise. No running required. It takes 10 minutes, which is exactly the length of my attention span these days.
She has us list things we know to be true.
- First, we name our beginnings. My answers: This is the first time I have been a beginner at working from home with housemates. This is the first time I have felt afraid of germs. This is the first time I have wondered if I should wear a face mask in public. The first time I have thought grocery store employees have really hard jobs and need to get paid more.
- Then, she has us list things we are in the middle of. I am in the middle of running a youth group online (so far the only bonus for me personally is there is no virtual dodgeball. Praise you Jesus!). I am in the middle of a season of summer planning when I don’t know if we will be out of physical distancing by then. I am in the middle of planning a trip with my sister that we both don’t know if it will happen like we envisioned. I am in the middle of meal planning when I’ve never really paid attention to the fact that I used to go to Trader Joe’s five times a week. I am in the middle of figuring out Zoom art time with my goddaughter.
- Finally, she encourages us to name what is ending. Take some time to say goodbye to these things. For me, I said goodbye to a vacation that I was really looking forward to with some people who are important to me. I am currently saying goodbye to Easter in the sanctuary – with singing the Hallelujah chorus and all your kids sitting on the floor with me (definitely not 6’ apart) as we shout “He is Risen!”
These are just a few of my beginnings, middles and ends. I wonder what yours might be?
Naming these things helps me be honest about them with Jesus. In every one of the items on my lists of beginnings, middles and ends, I name my truth and remind myself, just like the Psalmist: “You are my God.” God will continue to be with us in the beginnings, middles and ends of today and tomorrow, too. It is helping me begin to get unstuck in this season I didn’t see coming and didn’t choose and don’t see ending soon.
Maybe we resonate with the sadness in this Psalm, or feeling forgotten, or like we just don’t have enough strength for all this. Tell that to Jesus. Know that he is with you through all of it.
Jesus, we come to you this morning holding so much. There is sadness and loss and disappointment and fear. There is a new reality, and we are beginners. Meet us in our beginnings and free us from the fear of change. There are places we are in the middle of and wondering how this will work out. Give us the courage to continue learning and grace with ourselves when we don’t know all the answers. There are losses – of memories, of jobs, of health, of life. Remind us that you are with us in every loss and you walk with us through it – big and small. You are trustworthy. You are our God. In every circumstance, you are our God. Give us more of your peace and hope today. Amen
Peace in Christ,
Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults
Bethany Presbyterian Church
cell | 908.930.8930