A story was aired on NPR’s “Kid Logic” of a very young boy on his first airplane flight. Soon after takeoff he turned to his mother and asked, “When do we start getting smaller?” Up to then, his experience of airplanes in flight was watching them shrink as they disappeared into the sky. The little boy had not yet developed what psychologists call “object permanence,” i.e., an airplane disappearing into the sky is the same size it was on the runway.
Navigating life faithfully during the Coronavirus epidemic may be a huge challenge for you. Your experience of God may seem to be receding. Where do you look for the stability and permanence you need to navigate life not only in the best of times but in the worst of times? Here are several suggestions.
- Discover good news. Open the New Testament and do some detective reading. What assurances, provisions, comforts, strengths are we promised in the face of loss? You won’t have to read very far before you find good news amidst the bad news. So much of the New Testament is written in the face of suffering and death. Jesus assures us that he is with us always, even to the end: the end of life, but before that, the end of each sorry day. Jesus is God Emmanuel, God with us: God’s presence, and power, and provision.
Saint Paul’s writings are chock full of his own testimony about God’s strength filling the vacuum of our own weakness. Saint Paul even makes a list of everything he could possibly imagine that might give us pause to wonder whether God is with us. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, [nor Coronavirus], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:35-39
Find some verses in the Scriptures that speak to you now. Write the Scripture on a Post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror, or write it on an index card and carry it in your pocket or use it as a bookmark.
- Claim a hero. Read about a person whom you revere or with whom you can identify, someone who conquered adversity. Whether you read a substantial biography or scan online, find one or more persons whose personal qualities, whose life practices, whose decisive tacks speak to you. We have an innate need for heroes. Claim an identification with someone whose experience of life enlarged and was strengthened through the crucible of suffering.
- Write a prayer. Awaken to the new day with a prayer that acknowledges God’s presence, and names both your awareness of need and your experience of gratitude. Make this your morning offering. Bring before God your own needs and those whom you carry in your heart and encounter along the way. You might want to use a Collect from The Book of Common Prayer or some other source. Adapt it so that the prayer is yours.
Curtis Almquist, SSJE