I’ve always loved Stephen Colbert’s work.
It’s funny, but also smart. Words are powerful tools and he knows how to use them to make me laugh and think at the same time.
When I’ve heard him speak about his long-held faith, his words are simple, direct and true to who he is. He doesn’t have to talk about God when he is doing social commentary with an imbedded giggle for me to remember that.
Back to normal.
I don’t think that’s ever going to be the case again, and I don’t believe that’s really what most people who say so are seeking. Maybe back to something familiar, like a habit or a routine that doesn’t feel surreal, disjointed or out of place, is more of what we are after.
I’ve stopped marking my pandemic experience in weeks and now think in terms of months, four to be exact. As time passes, more abrupt departures from what is familiar are cropping up, mostly shelved in favor of the immediacy of what will “keep us safe.” Commerce, entertainment, education and full religious practices, including worship in our sanctuaries, community outreach and programming, all of these are now subject to adaptation or even dismissal for the foreseeable future.
It’s becoming clear that with almost every decision related to dealing with this time we are winging it. We are learning a lot about ourselves and each other, how we think and what we believe.
And I don’t think we’re letting God help us as much as God probably is willing to do so. Do you?
We surely are not the first people to push God away in favor or the immediate and most pragmatic decision available. Or, something far more damaging, to minimize God’s presence, God’s power to sustain and strengthen us in the worst of times. We won’t be the last.
But in these times, our times, I am certain that God is calling us, you and me, to more, in though, word and deed.
Everything we have done and will do to mitigate the spread of this virus will secure and sustain our public health. But it will not determine the health and well-being of our faith, nor the assurances it provides us as it did our ancestors.
Although not spoken during a pandemic, God’s words, through the prophet Isaiah to Israel, did draw their attention to how they were considering God during the troubles they were facing.
“To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?” says the Holy One. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hid from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?’ Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and grow weary, and young people shall fall exhausted; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40: 16-21
Each morning I encourage myself to consider God as more than my weariness, my struggle to participate in simple practices that contribute to our collective physical health and well-being. Today, I invite you to do the same. To whom, if anyone, are you comparing God?
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Even before the pandemic, it was important to me to be clear about my thoughts, how I articulated them, and to not simply repeat what other people were saying. Clarity, not caution, is the core of my communication style. Deeply listening to what other people are saying is the other half of that. And from there, asking an open-ended question to gain further insight and understanding. Yes, all of that takes effort. And it is worth it. I’ve gained insight by making space for my own opinions and holding other people’s ideas as equally sacred.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Over a year into the Coronavirus pandemic, we have all adjusted and adapted, not just to survive, but to make it to the end of the tunnel and greet what comes next.
Vaccine availability surely is a great relief and a reminder that hope is with us and will be realized, bringing us back to in-person living. Isn’t it incredible to consider that we may be able to worship with each other again?
Meanwhile, we have a better handle on the things that have brought us this far: social distancing; mask wearing; Zoom meetings; online ordering of almost anything you could need. I’ve personally honed my already significant online ordering skills, and have been blessed to receive things on time or earlier than anticipated.
My best online ordering story is my bed-in-a-box that I purchased at 6 pm on a Tuesday night, expecting to see it in about three weeks. But it was waiting for me at my front door that Thursday at 10 am, less than forty-eight hours later. Impressive.
And while I don’t expect the bed delivery speed to be repeated, I was taken aback by a recent delay in sending my stimulus check to my bank in another state. The normal turnaround time is three or four days, sometimes longer if I mail letters later in the week. But, as you probably do too, I pay for the tracking feature so at least I know where it is. Well, I could see it sitting at the
regional distribution center well past the time it was supposed to be there.
Rather than stew about the situation, I got to work figuring out a way forward that would lead to a solution. That took researching the next step online, talking with the closest post office three times, and eventually being directed to filing a claim. That route also included talking with the IRS, finding out what their procedures were for replacing checks in these situations.
Making peace with the trajectory of the combined process and letting it go until I could take those steps was much easier than being frustrated, aggravated, stressed out or just plain angry.
Two days later, the tracking picked back up and the check was delivered and deposited two weeks after I had sent it. That felt miraculous all on its own.
But more so, the people who brought that package from my hands to my bank account are the everyday miracles we like to talk about in the church, and sometimes outside in the rest of the world.
The postal worker at my local branch and I have known each other for years. On the day I walked in to post my package, she greeted me with joy, asking me how I was doing. After completing my transaction, she automatically wrote the tracking number on the back of the receipt because she knows I won’t be able to read the tiny printed numbers.
The three calls to the post office that would be receiving my package were shared with three other postal workers who listened, offered their best advice and support, saying while things didn’t get lost often, they would alert the distribution center to keep an eye out for my item. What I didn’t know, until one of these folks called me back the evening it was delivered, was that they had been checking every day to see if it was progressing through the system.
Meanwhile, in speaking with the IRS after a relatively short hold time, I received the agent’s undivided, kind attention in answering my questions. If the postal service hadn’t found the check, the IRS would be able to put a trace on it and replace it if need be. As he pointed out, while it sometimes takes them a little while to do something, they usually get it right. That has been my experience in the few times I’ve needed to call them.
All of this is to say that God gives all of us, you and me, a whole lot of resources with which to work whenever we need them. And at the same time, God is working on our behalf as well.
My understanding, born of personal experience and of observing other people, is that we let our reactions against what is happening get in the way of working through the problem to the solution we are best hoping for. We also, as human beings in general, and as people living through a pandemic, can become very short sighted in our weariness, forgetting that some things just take time, effort, patience and faith to work themselves out.
God is always with us and never against us. No matter what.
In January 2020, having completed her training with Joanna Lindenbaum, Cory was named a Sacred Depths Certified Coach. http://joannalindenbaum.com/sdcc-certified-coaches/
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