Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

How can they know?

Every time there is a tragedy, a Christian leader feels obligated to tell us all what God is doing.

To announce to the world what God is saying through this catastrophe.

They even deign to tell us what God is thinking, what is motivating God to allow the destruction.

And every time this happens, I feel extremely uncomfortable.

I listen ...

I ponder ...

And I wonder:

How does this person know what God is doing?

How do they know what God is saying?

How  do they know what God is thinking?

Here's the truth -- THEY DON'T KNOW.

They don't.

But they are pretending they do. It feels powerful. It feels authoritative -- superior, even.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:2:

Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.

So, when you hear someone start to pontificate about what God is doing, thinking or saying through this current pandemic, be wary. 

God is a great Mystery.

God's ways are beyond our ways; God's thoughts beyond our thoughts.

When great tragedy strikes, we must refrain from making pronouncements about God.

Instead, we must remember that God is doing what God has always been doing --

Drawing people to himself in love and grace. 

Commanding us to show love for him by showing love to our neighbor, especially our poor, marginalized and down-trodden neighbor.

Weeping alongside us -- over the destruction, the sickness, the pain, the callousness of the powerful.

One thing we can know, no matter the time or season --

God is with us.

God is with us.

God is with us.

And if that is all we know, it is enough.

Just one next step ...

I have been in a few conversations recently about when we can return to normal, about what re-opening our community might look like, about what lies ahead.

We are so in the dark about what the future holds.

The hard truth of the matter is that even during more normal phases of life none of us - not a one - know what the future holds.

But most of us have learned to navigate life as if we do.

So this uncertainty is especially disconcerting.

It forces us to be more thoughtful, more careful, more deliberate. At least it should ...

But we are not good at this.

Uncertainty causes anxiety.

The unknown creates dread.

Loss of routine brings disorientation.

And so we often try to control things; we move way too quickly to try to plan the future!

I was reading an article this morning that described this kind of uncertain time as a "threshold moment."

The author, Brandan Robertson writes this:

What are we to do at such a threshold moment? 

In moments of transition, we are simply to be. We are to pause and acknowledge that a transition is taking place. Instead of seeking to abruptly pass through a threshold, we are to tarry ...

A new reality is emerging, but we cannot see beyond the threshold. All we know is that we exist in this moment, where everything is in transition. We may experience a new way of being, but we cannot yet sense what it will look like.

This force some questions:

Am I giving myself permission to just be during this threshold moment in history?

Am I choosing to take time to pause and acknowledge what is going on?

Am I allowing myself to tarry, which simply means "to remain, or to stay in place?"

Am I reminding myself that God is at God's best when I don't know what is coming?

When I am walking in the dark I focus on taking just one next step. Once I safely take that one, I take another. And then, just one more ...

This is what life needs to be for me right now. 

Time to be - just to be - and to let that be enough. 

Time to pause and acknowledge that we are living through a remarkable moment in world history. This is a threshold moment!

Time to tarry, to just stay in place; to not push forward to what's next.

Time not to plan 4,000 next steps, but simply to take the one next step I can see.

Just the one next step.

I love the words from this old hymn by John Henry Newman;

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home --

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

the distant scene -- one step enough for me.

Just take one step today, my friends. And if that one step is to just "be" that is good enough for today.

 

Courage doesn't always roar ...

Courage doesn’t always roar.

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

 (Mary Anne Radmacher, b. 1957)

There is much we cannot control ...

I read a great article by Gregory Hillis called "We're All Monks Now," which contained a helpful nugget of wisdom for me this week.

Hillis writes:

" ... it is admittedly difficult to focus on the spiritual life in the midst of the anxiety so many of us feel right now. The monks I spoke with acknowledged this, but at the same time they suggested that we can use this moment to live into and be freed by the realization that there is much we cannot control.

So much of our anxiety revolves around wanting to control the uncontrollable, and the pandemic can teach us the futility of this.

According to Father Mark, we need to be attentive to the present moment and so focus on that which we can control:

'If I can concentrate on being in control of that very small circle of reality that is entrusted to me and in some sense depends on me -- how I use my time, how I take care of myself, how I care for my family and friends, how I daily and hourly turn my concerns over to God -- then my anxiety diminishes.'

I wonder if some of the exhaustion I am experiencing stems from a constant feeling of being out of control,

of being bombarded with anxiety-provoking news about sickness and unemployment and hunger and strife,

most of which I can do nothing about.

I wonder if trying to attend to all of that is futile and what the Bible calls "chasing after the wind."

I wonder if I should shrink my span of concern, while at the same time expanding my circle of prayer?

Focus on what I can control, which is not much.

Practice lifting up to God all that God can control, which is pretty much everything.

I wonder if that is the set of practices called for right now?

Get my face out in that sunshine, support the local Food Bank, check on a neighbor, call my mom, plan a nice dinner, feel the spring breeze on my face, pray for those in need, clean out the kitchen sink, go to bed early in freshly washed sheets ...

Control the tiny bit I can control. 

Give to God what is God's.

We're all monks now ...