Since the quarantine two members of our congregation have buried their mothers. Though their deaths were not related to the pandemic their families and friends inability to gather and console each other was. One member’s young son lost his job due to the shut-down of unessential services and another family has lost a hefty piece of their business along with their plans for the trajectory of their retirement.
Unable to visit, I call. Everyone who answers says “I’m okay.” In the wake of this pandemic, okay has a significantly lowered benchmark. While I’m humbled by how you manage in this time when there is so little we can do for each other, I’ve found it hard to be as strong as you.
Squirrels burry acorns, beavers build damns and in a crisis priests throw open the church doors, gather people in and they also go out. It seems like several times a day every fiber in my being pulls taught and demands that I go to you immediately wherever you are. But I can’t.
Have you had sleepless nights during this quarantine and if so, is there a theme to what you think about? When sleep alludes me a familiar, unwelcomed guest frequently pulls up a chair next to my bed. Often referred to as The Accuser in Scripture, this voice posits hundreds of worse case scenarios and concludes each diatribe with the same question. “If the rug was pulled out from under you, what would happen to your faith?”
As romantic as any other church girl is about saints and martyrs, I’ve always figured that being noble and strong is best left to the experts. When the obstetrician suggested I try to bear our children without an epidural and said, “No pain no gain.” my wife suggested another motto: “No pain, no pain”. Ever since I’ve wanted to make this better slogan into a bumper sticker.
That said, for almost two weeks I’ve been sharing Morning and Evening Prayer with you online. Apart but together we read Scripture, pray and say the Apostles Creed with its ancient handful of emphatic statements strung together by the repeated assertion “I believe”. “I believe in God…. I believe in the forgiveness of sins…. I believe in the holy church…. I believe in everlasting life…”
Through these prayers the church has reached into my attic office and re-informed me daily about what I believe. Like a dish rag thrown into water, the ancient words of the faithful who came before us saturate me and I find that when we’ve finished praying, spine or no spine, the Holy Spirit has carried me back into life.
There is an arch in Grace Church Van Vorst covered in foot tall calligraphy with a verse from 2nd Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 12:9b. If you can picture it in your mind, why not keep it there for now?
Family: I know you’re ok, but in the days ahead if you find that you suddenly aren’t, if The Accuser comes to tell you about how weak and afraid you are, tell him you don’t have to be strong. Tell him you have no need of bravery. Tell him that your weakness is made perfect in God’s strength. Then fall into the arms of Christ.