“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” Psalm 23:4
These are, as the probably not Chinese curse goes, interesting times. The world seems to have come undone in the face of coronavirus and its accompanying economic and medical system distress. There are predictions of doom and gloom running rampant across our news feeds, both on television and in social media. There is a frenetic sense of trying to fill the gap of social distancing with something, anything to make us feel less alone and less on the edge of disaster. I find myself a stranger in a strange land as I observe …
Everyone from the local clothing store to our local churches has rushed to fill up every moment of our time with some kind of distraction or invitation to purchase something. Museums, operas, and movies have provided either free or alternative ways to visit. Schools are providing work for students to do at home to try to keep them from falling behind during closures. Restaurants have all begun delivery, television stations are advertising the #AloneTogether campaign to encourage folks to come back to watching TV. Churches have not only gone live with their services, but they have begun adding new ways to connect with one another.
Now, hear me. I am not here to criticize these efforts, nor denigrate the beauty of many of these organizations freely giving what they have to help folks out during this time. But the sudden deluge of “connect, connect, connect” keeps striking me with the same feeling that used to drive me to sing as I walked alone by the woods in the dark. We used to call it whistling past the graveyard. A need to fill the silence lest we look into the dark and be overwhelmed by fear from what lurked there. It all feels like a demand to do MORE to avoid the reality that we can’t control what is going on in the world right now.
This sense of fear is what I would expect to see within the population at large. What has set me to feeling like I am somehow out of place, out of sync, and that perhaps there is something deeply wrong with my psyche is the fact that so many within the faith community are operating in a space of fear as well. It looks different, to be sure. They are all speaking of the power of God. They are all responding as we are called to respond to fear, with reading the word, with prayer, with songs of worship and praise.
Yet, from almost every place, in almost every message, I am hearing a sense of “We know you’re afraid, and that’s okay.” Or if you need to talk about how you’re feeling, reach out. Or contact the folks who are struggling with being isolated. There is an underlying message in all of it that says those who are leading the Church in the world today expect that those they are leading, even or perhaps especially other leaders, are walking through their days afraid of the circumstances that surround us. More, the message communicated is that those speaking on behalf of God are also filled with that fear.
I must admit that every time I hear those messages I feel an urge to be quiet, shrink back, and keep my thoughts to myself. There is a sense that I don’t quite belong here in this place. I think perhaps I have stumbled into the wrong party and it might be best to quietly back away. Yet, the Lord has been pretty adamant the last couple days that I am to give what God has given me. So, here goes the sharing. But before I begin, let me state something firmly and clearly. This is NOT a criticism of the church leaders, Christians, or anyone else struggling in this moment with fear. It is simply what God put in my heart and head in response.
I am not afraid. It’s not that I’m struggling with fear and conquering it. It’s not that I’m worried but valiantly turning it over to God. It’s not that I’m unaware of the statistics, the death tolls, the science, the economic indicators. I am not blissfully ignorant of the circumstances.
Where we are
I am, in fact, currently stuck in a one room efficiency in an extended stay hotel with my youngest son, my husband and our dog. We’re coming up on a month. We’d been looking for a house since December, and didn’t find one that would work prior to our lease going up. We found one the last week before then, but it is still under renovation. What that means is we can’t really prep, no room.
Who we are
Corey currently works for Amazon. They are considered essential employees right now while the world hunkers down. He is also a cancer survivor, who had a quintuple heart bypass in 2016 and a renal stent in late 2019. The part time job I was working was visiting with the elderly. I started having a cough early in March, so self-isolated from them just in case. (I’m not having trouble now, praise the Lord). Since then, that service has shifted to phone calls only, and is far more limited. So, in other words, from an income standpoint this affects me, from a risk standpoint this seriously affects Corey.
According to the world, I should be afraid, not just for us, but for our parents, our siblings, and others we know and love who may be at higher risk. Yet, I am not afraid. Simply there is no fear. And I have to say at first, I wondered what was wrong with me.
Not the First Time
I mentioned that Corey had heart surgery in 2016. That was the first time I noticed this strange phenomenon. As I rushed him to the hospital there was no sense of panic. When they stabilized him and shipped him to Piedmont in Atlanta still no panic. I called his mom, called our son. After the ambulance left, I stopped to cry a minute and call my Dad. Then on I drove to get our son and head to Atlanta. Everyone I talked to kept talking to me as though I might be afraid. I wasn’t.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know he could die. It wasn’t that I was struggling with fear and valiantly hiding it. It wasn’t that I was conquering fear through prayer. I simply wasn’t afraid. I have grown to know why.
Perfect Love …
I started running with God somewhere around 2009. In the years that followed our family suffered. We had custody battles. There were problems from having a blended family. A mystery illness struck Corey and took six years to diagnose. It killed our business, his hopes and dreams, and our prosperity. I don’t think there has been a time of security since I began this race with God. Our finances have never been stable. My work has not been stable. Corey’s health has not been stable. From the perspective of the world, I should not be stable.
We are now standing on the end of a two year adventure that uprooted us and set us on a new path. The last year has seen a job change, a move, me working on school, and several personal crises in our grown children’s lives. Oh, and another major health problem for Corey. According to the world, I have experienced every major stressor possible in the last year. I should be a jibbering mess.
Casts out fear
But, I have been running with God since 2009. In all of those years of trial and tribulation I discovered my life is not stable, but God is. Every step where He stretched me, His love filled in where my fear gave out. Each mountain in my path became His training ground for my faith muscles. For every heart cry that screamed, “I can’t!” there was Love’s answer that said, “I can.”
Today, this is the thing God gave me to give you. I’m not bragging that I am unafraid. I am telling those of you who are that God uses your fear to draw you near to Jesus. If you’re still in the place where you are valiantly wrestling your fears and handing them over to God again and again, that’s okay. Keep up the good work! He is right there with you, hearing your heart cries. His strength is holding you together even as you fall apart. His love is right there, fighting your demons, casting them down even now. And He sent me to tell you, when you know that you can’t, He can.
Be blessed and be a blessing.