Blessed: Even in Times of Uncertainty
By Gary Overfield, Nebraska Synod Council
What a week to agree to write something for the Synod blog! March Madness is out, St. Patrick’s activities are being dramatically curtailed, movie theaters are limiting the number of people in their auditoriums, and (gasp!) most fast-food restaurants have closed their dining rooms! This pandemic keeps getting more real.
I’ve spent the last few weeks doing what most people have been doing, going about my business as usual. I washed my hands more often and looked with suspicion at anyone who coughed or sneezed around me. Every time I had a scratch in my throat, I wondered, Is this it? I dug out an extra couple of bottles of hand sanitizer to put in my car and checked our toilet paper supply. I called my doctor to see if I should go on a short road trip with a friend who was flying in (from SEATTLE, of all places!). I reassured my sister, who was concerned when she heard that the first case of the virus had been in Fremont. And our own children, in the role-reversal that is becoming increasingly common, have checked in regularly to see how their aging parents are doing. We’re doing just fine, and everyone I know is doing just fine, too. No need to over-react.
But that pesky coronavirus keeps forcing its way into our world. We realize that we may not be able to see our granddaughters in person for a few weeks—maybe longer. We had regular worship services at church last Sunday, with some minor modifications, but shortly afterward we learned that rehearsals and Lenten services were canceled. Then it was regular worship services but no communion, and I just got word that all services and activities are off until further notice. Suddenly, not being able to join with sisters and brothers in Christ has become our new reality.
This is a lot to give up in this season of Lent. As it happens, our congregation has focused on fasting this year, but there’s fasting—and then there’s FASTING! As a tweet I saw on Facebook last night protests, “Actually, I hadn’t planned to give up quite this much for Lent!”
What good can come from giving up so much? I can only speak for myself, and I have just begun to consider the possibilities, but here are a few ways I’ve found so far to respond to my new situation:
I can look beyond myself. I can call the friend who has already been quarantined in his independent living facility for two weeks and who has no idea how much longer he will be unable to leave or to have visitors. I can check on the elderly friend who wasn’t in church on Sunday.
I can easily find time now for more intentional devotional reflection. Our choir’s anthem this past Sunday (the last we’ll sing for a while), “Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty,” has been a fruitful place to start, bearing its promise that if we drink the water of “Jesus, ever-flowing fountain,” we will experience the “joy no tongue can tell.”
Most of all, I have been reminded how little I am in control, and that realization brings my focus back to the One who is in control, whose love for me and all of God’s creation is boundless. That’s really quite a lot to consider and for which to give thanks. And I suspect there are many more insights ahead for me, meaningful and graceful ways I can respond as I continue this year’s unique Lenten journey.