Uncharted territory. That is where we find ourselves. Our current situation seems to keep changing by the day and hour. Our current pandemic brings forth protocols that move us out of our comfort zones and normal ways of living in the world. Leaders are learning new ways of leading. Communities are learning new ways of connecting. Churches are adapting and adjusting to new ways of being the church. Many of us will say to ourselves, “I didn’t sign up for this.”
I have been thinking of Moses and God's call upon him to gather the people in Egypt and take them to the promised land. Moses had a passion but did not feel equipped to do this work. He relied on others as they navigated pharaoh, plagues, the parting of the sea, 40 years in the wilderness, and their own anxieties and worries. Moses and God's people had to rely on God for all things that would be new and not part of their regular routines. They needed to trust God and one another to get where they wanted to eventually go.Moses was a leader willing to ask questions, be in dialogue with God quite a bit, and function as an encourager to those around him. He had to create a collaborative team of people to help them stay hopeful about their future. The leadership of Moses was one of what I would call a shared ministry.
Our tendency as humans is to resort back to what we have known and what is comfortable. The resorting back is not always the most helpful perspective. God’s people sought to compare the wilderness time against their slavery time. Many were beginning to feel that slavery was better than wilderness because they at least did not worry about food and housing. At the same time, they easily dismissed the anguish, pain, and hardship that came with their time in slavery. During the wilderness it was easier to remember the positives rather than the negatives because of their own current feelings of being in an unknown space and place.
We find ourselves in a place of wilderness and challenge with this pandemic. We are faced with putting our trust in God and one another. We are learning new ways to be church as we seek to continually be faithful to God. As we move forward, we will cultivate new skills for connecting to others and serving on God’s behalf. The path we are called to take is not going back but going through which will only make us stronger as a people of faith.
St. John of the Cross was a Christian mystic from the 16th century that wrote the book The Dark Night of the Soul. He wrote about the feeling of being profoundly alone. The dark period of his life led him to a place of deeper faith. No one wants or desires a “dark night” period in their life, yet we cannot escape them when those moments are upon us. St. John of the Cross reminds us of the light that finds itself on the other side of darkness. The unknown times we are experiencing can feel like a “dark night” experience. This is especially true for those living alone or with limited ability to get out. It can be true for families navigating new household norms with online school and keeping children active all day. It can be for those who have lost jobs and income to sustain their future. It can be caregivers and first responders giving endless hours with limited sleep. It is for those who have encountered deaths in their family with some unresolved grief of not being able to say farewell in a helpful way.
We are called to remember that the darkness and unknown dimension of these moments in history do not have the last say. Faith and hope prevail against the hardships and challenges of our life experiences.
May God give us all we need to navigate these days of anxiety with courage and hope. Grace and Peace to All. Amen!