Updated: Apr 22, 2020
As an avid consumer of news, I was aware of the coronavirus in early January, but overnight, the news of the virus went from a prayer request to a crisis that upended our lives. I wasn’t prepared. Like most of America, overnight, I went into action to try to figure out what normal would look like when we were all forced to stay home.
I changed plans, created new rhythms trying to figure out how to work with two kids at home. As a family, we started giving to the food bank signed up to help get handmade masks and even organized neighborhood and church activities that we could do while practicing social distancing. Despite staying busy, I couldn’t hide my anger. I was angry. I could tell you why I should have been grateful --compared to most people, my family had the privilege to weather this crisis -- but none of those reasons could keep my anger at bay. On a sunny afternoon, a contractor came to our house to give us an estimate for a new porch. His lackadaisical attitude towards the mandatory stay at home order released the gates that were failing to hold my anger back. I wasn't angry at the contractor. I understood he needed to feed his family. I was angry that there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t protect my family. I couldn’t fight this enemy. Our only options felt empty. Compared to the enormity of the situation, it felt like my flurry of activity was a tiny sandbag attempting to stop a flood. At night, as we prayed the compline from The Book of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals,
“This is what we are about: we plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide the yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.”
The prayer was an invitation from God to ask if I believed. Did I believe that what God was asking me seemed small, but that I was part of his plan? Did I believe that I could trust God?
Humility and Trust
I am great at making plans. When our city mandated that we stay at home, I scoured the internet for homeschooling plans. I created a schedule for our family. Each night we adjusted that schedule and I would make a new plan. Even though many of my plans go awry, plans give me a sense of security. If I can plan things, I can pretend that I have control.
But this pandemic made it abundantly clear, that my I had no control over the disease. I couldn't stop the pandemic from impacting our life. I couldn't stop the way this pandemic was raging through our community. My plans seemed useless. All I could do was trust.
Throughout my life, I have struggled to trust God. Behind every prayer is a binder filled with a plan to answer those prayers. However, when I have surrendered my false sense of independence, I have met God.
Jacob used clever plans to avoid trusting God to fulfill his promises. Jacob created an elaborate plan to appease his brother Esau. Jacob created an elaborate parade to both appease Esau and appeal to his sentimentality.
As Jacob waited, alone and afraid, God wrestled with Jacob. They wrestled all night and when God saw he could not win, he touches Jacob’s hip socket, wounding Jacob.
Jacob refused to let God go until God blessed him. John White wrote in Daring to Draw Near, “All his life he had learned one lesson: It is safe to trust no one. Jacob must fight his own battles. So he wrestles on, terrified but unyielding. Then suddenly – incredible pain and a useless leg.”
I’ve always been a fighter. I wasn’t great at sports but I practiced. I routinely shoot layups until I could make 50 in a row without missing. I made up for my lack of talent, by practice, studying and other forms of fighting.
To stop fighting, would mean that I would have to trust God. Trust him that what he has for me, is good.
According to White, “Trust should come first, not last. Yet there is no limit to what he will do, no desperation he will withhold to teach you this basic lesson in prayer: You are helpless and you have no hope except in him.”
Trusting God requires a humility that it is God who does the work.
Being Faithful in the Little Things
In my application to journalism school, I wrote that I was inspired by Lois Lane. I’ve always wanted to make a difference. As a kid that meant dreaming of being a superhero. My delusions of speaking truth to power through journalism were crushed by my first internship.
Jesus asks us to follow him as his kingdom comes here. As God’s kingdom is piercing into our world, Jesus invites us to testify to what he is doing. The blog Addenda & Errata says, “We may witness to, testify to it, plant signs of it or work or build for it (the word for introduces a big difference as Tom Wright points out) it, etc. But it’s God’s kingdom and consequently, God is the one who is building [his Kingdom].”
My hero complex wants me to be the reason that God’s kingdom is coming here. But it is Jesus, not me, who is the hero of this story.
My role is to be faithful to whatever God asks. And sometimes, it’s great big things and other times it's cleaning dishes for a friend. I do not get to choose what faithfulness looks like. I get to choose to say yes.
Right now, faithfulness is staying home. I am not a doctor or a nurse. Other than donating masks and PPE, I am completely useless to fighting this pandemic. I am not a politician or an economist. My only contribution to the devastating effects this is having on our community is to give. Being faithful right now, for me, means staying home and entering my credit card information.
It’s not sexy. It’s not big. In this story, I am just a pawn. But trusting God means trusting that my little acts of faithfulness are what he requires.
Turning from Anger
While both my lack of control and my inability to help lead me to anger, I do not have to stay there. The words of the compline invite me to trust God. Realizing that the story is not about me and that my part is a small part in the story, liberates me. It gives me the opportunity to do what God has asked – no matter how small – well. It allows me to freely follow God and allow him the opportunity to figure out how the plan will come together for his glory. Trusting God allows me to lay my anger down so I can rest.
Being present to my emotions allows me to know where God is nudging me. My anger might be directed at others, but I’m angry at God. But God invites me to give him my anger and to trust him so that he can transform me.