Living in “Interesting Times”

I said to Tim the other day, “It’s hard to imagine that we are living through an incredibly significant time in history.” I suppose every historical era is significant, but these past months have touched us with an intensity that comes only in times of crisis.

In August, my grandkids acquired 3 chickens.

It’s not just that the global pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our daily lives—work and home, church and school, food and entertainment, neighborhood and transportation, recreation and medical care. The smaller changes in our individual patterns lead into greater and more complicated changes on a national and international scale.

So much is unknown to us. We don’t know what will happen next for ourselves—for our health, our jobs, our families. And we don’t know what will happen regarding the bigger events and movements of our time—

  • What decisions will come from the November elections?
  • Which small or large businesses will succeed or fail?
  • Can we find ways to create a more just and peaceful world?
  • What can we possibly do to heal creation in the face of climate change that affects an increasing number of human communities and ecological systems?

I’ve been reflecting on my own individual human-ness since the pandemic began. I have felt very small in the face of huge threats (see my blog-post from April 3 “Occupied with Small Things”). I have been convicted repeatedly about the role of White privilege in my life. I have wrestled with my weaknesses as a Christian leader at the seminary. I have suffered from sleeplessness and anxieties about how COVID and economic insecurities will affect my children and grandchildren.

I’m sure that you too have experienced these kinds of theological, psychological and social challenges. Then how can we live as faithful Christians? Two practices that help me navigate these times:

  1. Asking for help and support. Every weekday afternoon, my church sponsors a 30-minute Zoom call for those who just want to check in with other people. There are about 15 of us who chat on a regular basis, sometimes about silly things and sometimes about momentous life-changes. I also have regular appointments with my spiritual director (via Zoom) which bring me into a grounded spiritual place.
  2. Taking time for solitude and reflection. This is a time when I try to pay attention to scripture verses, song lyrics, phrases from poems that pop into my consciousness. “I am listening” by Lea Morris stuck with me after Dr. Susan Forshey played that song during the seminary’s evening prayer this August. Just yesterday, Proverbs 3:5 came to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Such thoughts strengthen our sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts.

Another phrase that came to me is the title of a Eugene Peterson book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Actually, I don’t remember ever reading the book, but the title gives me a sense of the need for perseverance in the Christian life. Or perseverance in the middle of a semester, or especially in the overwhelming circumstances of a pandemic.

I am consoled by the words of the New Creed from the United Church of Canada:

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
    God is with us.
We are not alone

    Thanks be to God.