March 24, 2020
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
A prayer for this week, taken from the refrain of the song “God of Breakthrough” by Mack Brock:
God of breakthrough, you are our rescue.
You can make a way.
God of breakthrough, we will trust you.
You will make a way.
We are now entering our second week of physical and social distancing, and our Lenten study encourages us to start to look for new things in our spiritual lives. I think this is timely and helpful. The author of the book, A Clearing Season, mentions 3 ways that a steady Lenten practice might begin to produce growth in your life. They apply to the situation in which we find ourselves now, too, if we try to look for the positive:
• increased creativity
• larger capacity (or readiness) for love— both giving AND receiving
• being open to God’s surprises
Your pastor struggles with that last one. I have a desire to be in control of things. Surprises sometimes throw me off and make me anxious. Feeling like I can’t control the outcome of some situations makes me nervous. So, this week’s reflection really hits home with me, especially right now. Is my urge to control everything a weakness? Or, can I turn it around into strength by owning up to it, admitting it, understanding who I am, and giving over what isn’t helpful to space I’m clearing away for God?
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Listening to the words of Isaiah is a great comfort to me right now. This passage comes from the part of the book in which the prophet brought the word of God to God’s people while they were in exile. Now as then, God is making a new way in the wilderness. God is sending a river to the desert of the community we’re experiencing right now. God doesn’t give us suffering, but even in the midst of our suffering, we belong to God. We belong to love and creative energy and surprises. We belong to goodness and generosity. We belong to hope and joy. Even when we don’t feel it, we belong to it, and it belongs to us.
And so even I am encouraged to find ways to let God surprise me, to give me unexpected creativity when I’m feeling the absence of ideas, to remind me of God’s deep love for me that is my foundation. The new growth I’m starting to see in me is a deeper trust of God … because I’m not in control. And when I feel out of control, like I do right now—those are the times when I can rely on the strong love of God, which triumphs by passing through the vulnerability of death.
And I’m seeing it! I’m seeing the love of God alive in the world in the stories of folks stepping up to help neighbors. I’m hearing in the voices of our faith community when I call and hear you say, “I’m fine! My children or my neighbors are looking after me. I’m not worried.” I hear it in my own daughter’s voice as she confidently navigates school by computer. I feel it when we connect virtually, and I see your smiling faces, even just on a screen.
We’re all going to be ok. Something new is happening, and with God’s help, we’re all going to figure it out together.
Where are you seeing growth in your life? Where is creativity springing up? Where is love rushing through you? Where is God surprising you? Where is vulnerability teaching you something important? Where are you seeing the deep love of God for the world, when we feel like we’re in exile?
Mark those places. Mark the growth you’re feeling. Mark the surprises you discover. God just may be doing a new thing in you. I can’t wait to hear about it!