Sheltered In Place…Again

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“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’” Isaiah 43:1-2

Reality has set in and the new normal is upon us. All I can say is this is not necessarily what I expected or where I want to be. I am alone with myself far more than I’m used to being. Somehow, with the various distractions of my comfortable life I’ve been able to avoid bumping into myself. But I find presently, sheltered in place, I’m the major obstacle to my journey. How disturbing is that! The more time in quarantine I spend the more of the underbelly of life, my life, seems to be exposed. And seeing the accumulated grit and the grime is neither pretty nor pleasant. The first moments of “sheltering in place’ seemed novel, like the name of the virus, but then they just seemed tedious and less enjoyable. All the projects I engaged in to fill the space, the fantasies regarding all that discretionary time and the expectations of productivity have grown somewhat stale with each passing day. The recovery adage that says, “wherever you go, there you are” couldn’t be more true. I have entered this time and space with the person I thought I was most comfortable with…me, and I have discovered he is not as fun to be with for long periods of time as I thought. It is a somewhat disenchanting realization.

I’m not sure, but I often wonder whether other people, after having spent time in an extended time of isolation, are like me, seeing themselves in a different light. Possibly they are discovering, like me, that they are not as comfortable in their own skin as they imagined. In this time we are faced with the unfamiliar and uncomfortable, which can often bring out the best or the worst in us.

One of the primary emotions that I sense during this time is fear. As I recognize that these circumstances have caused me greater fear it provides the opportunity to refocus upon the God who says, “Do not fear.” It also provides opportunity within that particular focus to gain a fair amount of wisdom and perspective from the All-Wise God. So in the midst of this ongoing challenge, here is something I am continuing to learn, something for you to consider, as the journey continues into what might seem like an uncertain future.

In the passage above from the prophet Isaiah, God speaks to His people and says, “Do not fear, I have redeemed you”. He gives several reasons for our redemption and the need not to fear, chief among which is His great love for us. But what the text doesn’t seem to indicate is the avoidance of the travails of the journey. God does not indicate that the water, the torrents of the rushing river, or the fire and flame can be avoided. They are not so much an “if” but a “when” in life. Instead the Lord promises to be with us in the midst of those experiences and that though we may get wet and singed we will not drown or be consumed. In other words our lives will still be in His capable and caring hands, insulated by His presence and power. In the circumstances of our journey that appear life threatening, the Lord says we need not fear for He accompanies us through those very circumstances. It is the echo of Psalm 23, “though I walk through the valley of death I fear no evil for you are with me”.

What I’m sensing is that the Lord can and will preserve our lives, though our way of life may be altered. It is possible, even likely, that we will have to abandon those things that would weigh us down, causing us to sink beneath the surface of the water, or that we will have to jettison the baggage impeding our progress through the flames that would consume us. For the Lord sees us as precious and loves us, while He may not be as concerned about the stuff we have accumulated, the stuff we have mistakenly identified with life.

Every day we are immersed in the global pandemic we are watching lives impacted. Yet God considers His creation, His humanity, precious, and desires to accompany us through the floods and the fires of our circumstances so that we might enter into and experience the life He intends. Preservation is really about what God deems as precious, which is His creation, including every human being made in His image. What we deem as necessary and precious to life, may be less important to His kingdom and glory than we think and therefore less worthy of preservation.

The challenge for me, and maybe you as well, is to hold all of this life, and the stuff accumulated, loosely when faced with challenging times and cling with even greater fervor to the God who loves and accompanies us through the worst of times and the best of times. Through it all, in the resurrected Christ, there is a new and brighter day that follows the darkness of night. May you discover in this challenging time the fullness of transforming love and grace that God provides so that you can move through these circumstances with courage, kindness and generosity of spirit. Here’s a new song written during this unusual time to encourage you on your journey.

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