It’s 110 degrees
there’s a significant wind moving the leaves
of our sissoos and elms.
From the window outside looks inviting
I’m tired of being inside
tired of air conditioning and my couch
I want to feel some heat, some breeze
that’s what I want
I’ll go get a watermelon
“I’m going to the store for watermelon!” I shout to my husband
laying on the couch watching videos of mountain biking
“That’s all? Watermelon?” my husband questions the necessity of the trip
“I’ve got my mask. I’ll be quick”
and off I went.
I found myself wondering the isles, not being quick
watching people, some masked, others not.
Going to the store wasn’t like this last year
Melon and some popcorn, I check out
a Plexiglas shield between me and my masked cashier
“What are you doing for the 4th, honey?” she asked,
It struck me funny she called me honey
she could have been my daughter
“Just trying to stay safe, you know” I pointed to my mask
“Me too. I wish I could just stay home” she confessed
“I’m sorry dear. I pray you’ll stay safe.”
“Thanks! Happy 4th!”
I was tired of being inside
she just wanted to go home.
Home again I wash my hands
and the fruit
and cut into that idealistic melon.
Small red triangles dotted with black seeds
fill my bowl.
but I don’t want to stay inside.
so I walk to the nearest patch of shade in the yard
the stinging invisible rays burning enough
to make me a little uncomfortable.
I brought the rinds from the watermelon
to our goats and chickens
who I found hunkering down, panting in the shade of our aluminum corral
I set the green and red rinds down in their troughs and watched them
get up from their spots
They seemed to enjoy the cold, crunchy shell of the melon
pecking and chomping
A neighbor down the alley has started up
the mariachi band that usually plays on Saturday nights
I listen for a bit
Mariachi always sounds like happy children playing in the yard to me
dancing and laughing and chasing each other
There will be no fireworks in town tonight
a young cashier will be calling strangers “honey” from behind Plexiglas
a Latino family down the alley will play mariachi
my friends will fight off panic in the hospital
a woman will grieve that Covid took her love
a daughter will weep that it took her mom
a stranger will call a nurses station hoping for good news
and when the sun to goes down
I’ll sit on the porch and watch the sky
This weekend me, my friends and neighbors are going to BBQ and blow up things. My social media feed will be full of American flags and Happy Independence Day GIF’s and memes.
I enjoy a good 4th of July celebration. Fireworks are nostalgia for me. Growing up in a small town of log truck drivers and mill workers (my dad one of them), the 4th meant BBQ’d chicken, which my dad joked was a burnt offering. It meant parking alongside the road up the hill from our fair grounds to watch (for free) the explosions in the sky.
As my sons entered their school-aged years, I began searching for stories and lessons from history that would help my sons know more about their country than the suburban white culture they lived in was teaching them. My mom tried to do the same for me, taping images of babies from various ethnicities to the wall next to my crib. As I began my search for more diverse material to inject into my kids’ senses, I began to learn what I was never taught growing up.
Yesterday I listened to a podcast with Dr. Walter Strickland. Strickland discussed his book, For God So Loved the World- A Blueprint for Kingdom Diversity. Strickland described the African American Christian community bringing to Christian theology a Berean-like practice that chews the meat of the gospel but spits out the bones of errant tradition. Strickland pointed out this Biblical practice has been part of the African American Christian way from it’s inception. Why? Because if African Americans had swallowed whole the Christian faith they were force-fed as slaves, they would have rejected it all together. The gospel the slaves learned and embraced was filled with a bunch of dead boned theology that their slaveholders used to defend slavery.
The Africans who were enslaved in the U.S. and on whose backs the U.S economy and government structures were built, were able to chew the meat of the gospel that Christ died for their sins to reconcile them to God and spit out the bones of the evil of their slaveholders. How can I do any less?
In Fredrick Douglass’ now famous speech What to the slave is the 4th of July, the former slave eloquently lays out the irony and wickedness that young America was willingly blinded to. He pointed out how our father’s thought it right and noble to seek independence from Britain’s crown, and celebrated their victory in gaining this freedom, while chained to the dark-skinned men, women and children they denied this freedom too.
“You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country…. ” (What to the slave is the 4th of July, 1852)
But even Douglass, so freshly scarred and wounded in a time of open slavery, was chewing the meat of the virtues America ironically violated in their slave holding, while spitting out the bones of our country’s wickedness.
“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.” (What to the slave is the 4th of July, 1852)
I love America. I love her diversity. I love that she has an ethic of hard work and human rights. I love that she invites the immigrant and the poor. I love the bravery of those who fought and died for her. But those very appetizing traits have come with centuries of splintery bones we all too easily swallow in our fourth of July nostalgia. Tomorrow I’ll eat barbecued chicken and cherry pie. I’ll light up some store bought fake fireworks and sing our national anthem. But I want to celebrate with the wisdom of the men and women who perhaps sang the greatest anthem to come from America’s freedom- the cries of former slaves who discerning wisdom from above, took the meat from America’s declaration of independence and spit out all her bones.
I don’t work in a Covid unit. I don’t have to wear an N-95 mask all day. But I do work in a hospital full of very sick people with rapidly increasing numbers of people with Covid 19.
This month a friend, and church member died from Covid 19.
At the hospital my nurse friends cry, take deep breaths, pray and go to work in a building full of men and women sick enough to be hospitalized with this virus. They perform high-risk treatments and provide personal care, putting themselves and their families at risk.
Nurses know how to minimize transmission of contagious disease. Preventing the spread of disease is a key pillar of our profession. We know that we don’t have to know exactly how coronavirus spreads and how long the incubation period is to enact practices for preventing the spread of this disease or any virus. Hospital nurses work in a world with contagious disease everywhere. And this hospital nurse has a message: Right now we all need to treat the world like a hospital.
In the hospital there are very sick people with Covid as well as people with strokes, heart attacks, injuries from trauma and more. Nurses, aides, housekeepers, doctors, respiratory therapists, imaging techs and all the above sick and injured people are in the same building. In the hospital we’re caring for patients, having meetings, making schedules, eating lunch, going to to the bathroom, etc. Life and death and the effort to push back death in the hospital carries on. How does it carry on?
We wash our hands, wear masks, distance ourselves, and then wash our hands again and again and again.
We do what we have to do to keep each other and our patients from getting sick with something we don’t see or feel but could be passing to someone else.
We were doing this before COVID and we’ll be doing it after.
This is how we must behave in the world right now. This is why we need to wear masks, and wash our hands frequently and keep our distance from others. When we go to Walmart or to church services. When we fill our cars with gas or visit a friend. This is how we must go about our business. This is how we must live in our communities with Covid 19.
It’s not easy, fun or fair. But it’s the best way we know to push back death and disease and care for one another.
I’m learning that the heroes of my American Christianity held out the gospel with one hand and the chains of their slaves with the other. I’m learning that the history I’ve been taught has left out a lot. As a result, I have believed a whitewashed narrative that made the wickedness my country’s greatness was built on look like noble American Christian bravery.
I’m learning at the least, the American church has turned a deaf ear to racism and at worst has preached and practiced it as Biblical. I’m learning that there are structures and practices in American government and in the church that have marginalized the lives and worth of black people.
I’m learning that my black friends are tired. Tired of trying to explain why. Tired of my passivity and ignorance. I’m learning that I don’t know what I don’t know.
I’m learning that I resist listening to people I can’t help, don’t understand, disagree with or feel uncomfortable around, and that in refusing to listen, a part of my heart has grown cold. My refusal to listen has increased my comfort and decreased my compassion. My refusal to listen has let the lies that have propped up my white sons’ insecurities go unchallenged. And because I haven’t listened I haven’t learned. And because I haven’t learned my neighbors have not experienced the hands and feet of Jesus that come with the hope of his gospel.
I began by listening to my Eritrean American friend, and fellow nurse. She told me in an aisle at the grocery store about her thankfulness for what she sees as God’s protection on her life and her family these 20 past years in America. I listened as she asked how my police officer husband was doing and told me she was praying for him. I listened as she told me she is afraid for her black sons.
And then I listened to my white teenage sons spout off support of President Trump. I asked questions and challenged them to explain what they supported about Trump. As a mother and a Trump detractor, my skin crawls thinking that in their teenage insecurity, my white sons might be drawn to and impressed by the machismo of the Trump presidency. I want to take Trump down in their minds with a lot of bad words, but instead I listened, trying to understand why they are where they are in their thought process. Then I told my sons we were going to listen to the Color of Compromise together. We sat, listened and began a dialogue.
I listened as the administrators of the Be the Bridge group I joined asked me to be quiet for three months on their social media group and do the work they provided me to learn. It’s an act of repentance of my ignorance to do the work of hearing from my black neighbor’s perspective.
I listened as a white, mentally-ill homeless woman told me how she got where she’s at and why she feels so stuck. I listened as she told a story of a lifetime of abuse, rejection and poverty.
Then I turned off the social media and listened to Moses and Job and Isaiah and David and Daniel and Jesus. I listened as the Spirit of God began stirring a fire in me. The cold places of my passive heart began to warm with compassion and conviction. The notes section of my iPhone are filled with quotes from scripture all telling me, “I am the God who saved you out of slavery to the sin of cowardliness. I am the God who lowered himself taking the form of a servant to lift you up and make you a child of God. Turn from your ignorance, your passivity, your cowardliness, your silence. Learn to listen. Learn to speak. Speak the truth in love. Love your neighbor and your enemy.”
I listened to God tell Cain, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” and Job’s friends tell him all the reasons he was wrong about why he was suffering. I listened to Job tell me to stop being a miserable comforter to my black friends.
I listened as God called Moses to go to the government structure enslaving his people and insist that they let them go. I listened to Isaiah and the prophets pleading with me to learn to do good, love mercy and work justice. I listened to David declare the heart of God for the widow, the oppressed and poor. I listened to Daniel confess and repent of his sins and the sins of his fathers.
I listened to Jesus declare that I must love others, including my enemies and those who see me as an enemy, just like he has loved me. I listened as he and his apostle’s declared that love born from his Spirit in me will not only declare the gospel but extend a healing hand and care for the physical needs of the people around me.
And I listened to my pastor call for me to examine myself to see, am I a Jesus person? Do I believe Jesus makes me righteous and do I love my neighbor by speaking the truth in love and, “disadvantaging myself to advantage someone else”?
I know, like any work of the Spirit of God in me, this must be an enduring work. Listening must become a practice. A rhythm. Speaking the truth in love must become a discipline. Working justice for the oppressed must become part of a gospel-driven, “long obedience in the same direction.” Saying and believing black lives matter and living a life that repents of the racist thoughts and beliefs that have become an ingrained part of the narrative that has kept me quiet and ignorant for so long, must become as daily as breathing. Something my black neighbors have been fighting to do for generations in this country and in the church.
Lord help me. Help me to be a listener. A learner. A repenter. A servant. A lover of my neighbor and my enemy. Help me to boldly declare the scandalous gospel that saved me and boldly decry the injustice that your gospel and your kingdom are driving out. Please call my sons to be men who chose the sufferings of Christ over the riches of this world and lay down their lives for others.
I am so torn tonight. I’m on vacation, watching the world burn on Twitter and Facebook. The vile speech, the violence, the defensiveness and accusations… it’s breaking my heart.
I want my sons to be compassionate. I want my husband to be safe. I want my black neighbors and friends to be heard and loved. Words feel so inadequate.
Tonight I told my sons, there’s only one way for peace and reconciliation to come in this country… or anywhere. And that’s through Christ-like love. Only love is stronger than evil. Someone has to lay down their life for their accuser. Someone has to serve someone who betrays them. Someone has to listen. Someone has to bear another’s burden. Someone has to love their enemy.
Peace won’t come through me writing a short blog post. Or sharing other’s more thoughtful posts on social media. It won’t come through being defensive of my husband. It won’t come through trying to explain my point of view. It will only come if I am willing to absorb the pain and burden of another. If I’m willing to turn my cheek. If I’m willing to serve one who despises me.
Jesus modeled this for me. He’s the author of this kind of love. And he’s empowered me to live this way.
An online friend wrote on her Facebook today that she always wondered what she would have done if she lived in the time of slavery in America. She wrote, “Now’s my time.” Now is my time too. I’m white. I am very privileged. I do not take offense. It’s time for me to listen. I almost want to go where those protesting are, just to listen.
I didn’t keep a journal during this pandemic. I wish I had. I find myself scrolling back through my iPhone calendar trying to figure out how many days we’ve been like this. Arizona “reopened” on May 15th. We’re eight days into gyms, restaurants and many retail stores being open for business. But life is by no means business as usual.
For me, as a nurse working in a hospital during this crisis, I have not experienced the shelter-in-place like so many have. The big changes in my family’s life has been having our two high school boys doing school at home via online learning and my husband being mandated to work from home until May 1st. The 2019-2020 school year officially ended yesterday. Not being able to hug my friends, pick up their kids, sit on the floor with elementary students and talk about Jesus and sing loud with them all on Sundays is by far the biggest area I’ve felt the impact of Covid-19.
I’ve been doing my shopping weekly for groceries and feed for my animals. People are shopping, some with mask, others without. To me it seems about a 50/50 split. I can now find toilet paper at Walmart and the pasta isle at Fry’s is almost back to being fully stocked. No one has harassed me for wearing my homemade mask. People have been polite and I’ve been thankful for the efforts of grocery clerks and cart runners who continue to serve me with a smile I can’t see. I may not see the smile, but the way their eyes sparkle as they nod makes me think the smile is there.
We aren’t big out-to-eat-ers so we haven’t tested the reopening of restaurants.
All in all, life feels fairly normal for my family. The strangeness is in the buzz on social media and news stations. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are tattered with anger, accusations, suspicion, conspiracy theory, blame and divisive politicizing. All those people I miss from church, see at the store, work with in the hospital, drive by running errands… they all have feelings and thoughts about all that has happened in the pandemic. A handful of them I’ve spoken to personally. And of those there’s a handful of differing opinions about what went wrong, who’s to blame, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, and where we go from here.
I’ve been listening to the audio version of the ESV translation of Ecclesiastes lately. I’m drawn to this long meditation on, “What’s the point of life?” This global pandemic has brought me face to face with my utter lack of control over life. As a Christian, I believe my God is good. Jesus showed me that. And if he’s God, and he’s good, I can just ride the wave of this pandemic and trust he’ll make everything right in the end. But it’s not that simple.
I can’t just ride the wave. People all around me are getting knocked out by the wave. Ecclesiastes reminds me that death comes to us all. Whether by Covid-19 or a car accident, cancer or coronary artery disease. Pick your reaper, either way, he’s coming. And you don’t even get to pick your reaper. So what am I to do with this life? It sometimes feels like all my concern for my neighbor, my desire to share Jesus with my friends, my heart-work to become more emotionally intelligent and aware of the logs in my eye, the work of loving a husband and raising men is for nothing.
Listening to Ecclesiastes I’m reminded that life is painful and sometimes seems fruitless. The point of it all is found in the God who made it and rules over it. Even there I find Ecclesiastes telling me to stop trying to figure out what God is doing, and do my work, be a good friend, be thankful, love my neighbor, enjoy my glass of wine, go outside, take in a sunset and laugh when the dog chases his tail.
Tonight I’m sitting on my back porch listening to a bird sing in one of our sissoo trees. The sky is a faint peach and grey, the aftermath of a blazing fiery orange sunset that was a few minutes ago. Tonight one of my friends is sick with Covid-19. His wife is scared. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and I pray my friend gets up feeling much better. Life with Covid-19 will go on. At least until the One who makes the sun rise says it’s all over.
When you shake a cup, what comes out reveals what’s been in there all along. The global corona virus pandemic has brought out the suspicion, anger and conspiracy theories in many.
I’ve been thinking about why so many of us are given to believing or promoting conspiracy theories. Folks who do so seem to be self-proclaimed prophets with their memes and YouTube videos. Their practice is name-calling, blame-shifting, complaining and crying “corruption” at every news story or government decision. Their gospel seems to be, “Repent of being dumb sheep who listen to science and news. Turn and become suspicious! Watch this enlightened person on YouTube or take this alternative supplement or treatment, or follow the politician I approve of.” They peddle their own sources and accuse those who don’t agree with them of being gullible or worse.
Many of these folks call themselves Christians. And I’m not say they aren’t. My question is, how should the Christian approach news, disease, government and disaster? With suspicion? Anger? Blame-shifting? Slander? Pride? Arguing? These kinds of responses are not fruits of the Spirit. They aren’t Christ-like. They aren’t spiritual gifts. Those given to these practices should turn from them for the sake of love, for the gospel and for Christ’s name sake.
I have to begin by confessing my personality type would rather ignore all bad news and hide myself away in a convent somewhere, where I wouldn’t have to deal with people’s problems. My tendency to be passive and avoid conflict isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either. I am not here to say that evil should be ignored, or that justice should not be called for. I am not saying wisdom should not be sought or that conflict should be avoided. What I am saying is that scripture, Jesus and the saints who have suffered much worse than we, point us to a godly way of responding to news, government, disease and disaster. And it’s not passivity, nor is it to spread suspicion or promote a conspiracy theory. Ed Stetzer is right, spreading conspiracy theories is hurting our witness and is foolish. So when suspicions arise, when bad news comes, when you find yourself angry about what the government is doing, what should the Christian do?
Check your eye for logs. I’ve found that the things I’m most upset about, whether in my personal relationships, or in relation to the public or government about social issues or moral issues, usually are the result of my own idols, my own faulty way of seeing the world and my own attempts to self-preserve. When Jesus taught us how to deal with people we see error in, he told us to first examine ourselves. When the corona-virus pandemic began to impact your own personal way of doing life, your bank account, your health, etc., was your response anger, blame-shifting, suspicion? Did you turn to YouTube? Did you use God’s word to scratch your itch? Ask yourself why? Why are you angry? Is it because you feel your freedom has been taken away? Do you fear being out of control? When the news is bad, or the government makes a decision that imposes on your way of life, don’t examine the news, or the government first. Examine yourself. Take scripture, look at Jesus, look at other Christians who’ve suffered well throughout history and hold it up to your own life first.
Humble yourself. The book of 1 Peter is addressed to suffering Christians. The Christians Peter wrote to suffered at the hands of a corrupt government because they were Christians. If what’s driving you to conspiracy theories, anger, or withdrawal is your belief that the government or some evil power is corrupt and out to destroy your way of life, look to the folks in 1 Peter. That was their reality. “Even if,” is one of the phrases Peter uses to encourage married women in that tumultuous time to submit themselves to their husbands, even in that culture, even if their husband’s didn’t believe the gospel of Christ. “Even if,” should be our mantra. Even if our government is corrupt (Newsflash- it is. Has there ever been a government without corruption? Are there humans in power? Then there’s corruption in power), even if there is a secret society of power trying to poison us or oppress us, 1 Peter tells us, to submit to those in authority the way his sons and daughters do. We humble ourselves. We are sons and daughters of God. We are heirs with Christ. Nothing we suffer here compares to what God has for us in Christ. So if the government is corrupt and we suffer, let us suffer as little Christs (Christ-ians), not as those promoting suspicion, anger, rebellion, pride or slander. We will not be under corruption forever. The One who rules the powers we cannot even see will, at the proper time, lift us up.
Complain to God. When I find myself getting angry, accusing, becoming cynical or suspicious of those who’ve offended or hurt me I often hear this, “Sheila, your problem isn’t with him. Your problem is with me! Come to me. Bring your complaints to me.” I don’t think we do this enough. At least I don’t. It’s no sign of moral courage to lash out with complaints, gossip, anger or suspicion when we’ve been offended, hurt or feel threatened by another. In fact, we don’t usually even take our complaints directly to the people we’re offended by. Usually we take it to someone else, or social media. It’s my conviction that when I do this, it’s because I’ve lost sight of who can make a difference in this situation. The Bible describes a good and merciful God who is completely sovereign. If our circumstances are such that we suffer, there is freedom and comfort in taking our complaints to the one who rules over our circumstances. He may change our circumstances. He may not. But He will not leave us unchanged. He promises to use every circumstance for our good and his glory. He promises to redeem it all. So we should cry, “How long!” and “Where are you?” and “Don’t you see this evil happening?” and “What are you going to do?” We should take all our complaints to the God of the Bible and throw them his way. There is no conspiracy where God is. He rules. And we will suffer. But if we cast our complaints on him and seek refuge in Him, we can rest.
Seek Wisdom.The thing with conspiracy theories and those who promote suspicion is there’s a claim to wisdom that the general population isn’t privy to. It’s a secret wisdom, that comes from the person claiming the masses are duped. But wisdom in the Bible is never a secret. The personification of wisdom in Proverbs cries out in the streets. She’s on the news. She’s heard. She speaks and points others to the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is not suspicious, it’s, “…open to reason…” As we seek out what to do in this pandemic, submitting ourselves to earthly authorities, examining our own hearts, running to God with our concerns, we should let the spirit of wisdom guide us. And it will look like this, “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
Fight the Good Fight. 1 Timothy 6 there is a description of a person teaching false teachings when comes to the gospel. It says, “...he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions...” Although I’m sure that when I am given to suspicion, and when folks turn to conspiracy theories we may not be conscious of it, but we are spreading, perpetuating false teaching. If we find in ourselves a “craving for controversy,” it may be that we need to repent of being false teachers and turn to do the good works God created us to do. There is so much good to do. Even right now, with social distancing and in financial hardship, even more right now. The end of that passage in 1 Timothy 6 tells the man or woman of God what to do. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:11) There is a fight the Christian should fight. It is not over 5G, or the origin of the corona virus, or vaccines, or government structure even. Our fight should be to live by faith and in so doing we should be making disciples of Christ, not disciples of our personal beliefs about any controversial thing.
We are being tested. This pandemic has shaken our earthen vessels. And out of us has come stuff we need to clean out of our cup. May God test us, purify us and make us useful for his kingdom, overflowing with joy, even in the midst of sorrow.
There comes a time in every mom‘s life when her kids don’t need her to tend to their physical needs anymore. They don’t need her the same way they did when she held them in her lap.
A time comes when circumstances are such that you don’t have control.
You’re not the planner. You’re not the maker. You’re not the organizer. Or the one doing the serving or the leading.
There comes a time when you just have to rest. You have to take a walk and trust that God, who you cannot see, is working the circumstance- leading, doing.
You have to sabbath. Rest. Cease working. Cease striving. Cease planning. Cease trying to make things better.
Motherhood is teaching me about sabbath. Covid-19 is teaching me about sabbath. Saturday in Holy Week is teaching me about sabbath.
Resting is not what I want to do. Especially when fearful and hard circumstances come.
When the choices are not yours to make anymore. When your son lies behind a stone and the church doors are closed. When you can’t hold the one you love and or tend to his needs.
Your weary body and mind finally collapse, and you rest.
There you realize, God has been trying to lay you down in this green pasture so you can watch him rise like the sun over the stone cold earth.
“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” Luke 23:55-56
I hit an emotional low this week. Last week I crashed from the adrenaline of responding to this pandemic in my church, community, family and hospital. This week I’ve cried. A lot.
The normal low-level fatigue I live with has become high-level. The irritability that signifies my depression has been showing. Hot tears have been spilling over my eyes and fiery darts of faithless thoughts have stung my swirling mind. I’ve found myself very tempted to hide in a batch of devoured hot brownies. I’ve vacillated between wanting to hide from every day’s grim new statistics of the spread of this virus and the death and destruction it’s brought, to busying myself with organizing my week, writing lists, setting goals and calling on people I care for.
And it hit me today. This is Holy Week. This is a special week of reflection and remembrance. And I’ve been missing it. I’m like the crowds around Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But today, Jesus got my attention.
My sister called me today and reminded me how God saved her. In her words, “You didn’t give up on me sis. When I was mean, you kept calling, visiting, sending cards and notes. You never gave up. You listened to me. You made me see that Jesus is real, not just a religious idea.” Her words shook me awake.
I believe that the Jesus who entered Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago, setting in motion a series of events that would lead to his crucifixion on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday, is alive. And lives in me. I believe he suffered this week those millennia ago so that I could experience the freedom of the glory that only the children of God experience (Romans 8:20).
This week the world is suffering. She groans. I groan. But as the world writhes under the pain of a pandemic this Holy Week, God’s children look to Jesus, our older brother, gone before to save us. We share this week with Jesus. We are in him and he is in us. He is redeeming our suffering. And we are sharing in his glory. It’s a beautiful wonder the world longs to see. And it’s a reality the children of God have been commissioned to invite them into.
This week my pastor called his congregation to pray for and specifically tell another person what Jesus has done for them. To be honest, intentionally setting out to tell my friend what Jesus has done for me via phone call or text or video (because doing it face to face isn’t safe) and inviting her to follow Jesus with me feels a little crazy. It feels a little bit like I might look foolish. I might be misunderstood. I might be mocked. I might be rejected. I might be… cut off. Like Jesus was, for me.
Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. And He’s the best thing that could every happen to any of my friends. And if I love them like Jesus loves me, I’ll look all those possibilities in the eye, and like Jesus I’ll set my face determined to go there.
There is no greater love than one would lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And there is no greater way to lay down my life for my friends than to give up whatever might happen to me if I determine to intentionally and faithfully love them well and invite them to follow Jesus with me.
I pray that like Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem this week, determined and knowing what he had to do to reconcile me with God, I will set my face toward someone else, determined to lay my life down that they could experience the freedom and glory of Jesus.