Friday, May 29, 2020

Facing the Unknown

Facing the Unknown

Life has been so different these past few months as we have experienced the coronavirus become a global pandemic. So much has changed is such a short period of time. Little knowledge of this virus and its impact on our future has led to feelings of uncertainty. The crises of so much death, job losses, food shortages, and social isolation have left us struggling with how to handle the immense amount of emotion and stress that crisis and uncertainty bring. Even if we have not faced the death of someone we know or suffered the loss of our income, we have all been impacted by the change this crisis has brought about and face an unknown future in some way.

This week in our Living Your Word of the Year group we are exploring this very topic with a reflection question:
How are you engaging with your word in light of the unknown?
This question has given me an opportunity to look at my word of the year, fruit, and to look back over the past few months. Taking time for some reflection will be something we are going to focus on in our group over the next month. I have always found reflection and evaluation to be valuable practices in my life. My written journal and my art journal both are great tools to help me with the process of seeking God to examine my heart and life. As pastor and author Marc Alan Schelske said, 
"Journaling is an outward expression of your inward thought and heart life."
I use both of my journals for this purpose.

This week I began to look back through my journal for the past few months. On March 16, when we were beginning to face this crisis, I began to explore in my journal what life might look like in the weeks ahead. At that time our governor had closed schools for a month and had just declared bars and restaurants to be closed. Our church had also made the decision to stop in-person services for as long as the Governor deemed it appropriate. Since my job and much of my life revolve around ministry in the community I needed to determine how I would move forward. So I took some time to pray, to read Scripture, and then talk through what I felt was my call with my husband, and then with my pastor.

The first thing I did was to spend time finding out what was known about the virus at that time. How was it spread, what preventive measures could be taken, etc. Using that information to help guide my practice. I spent some time reading in 1 Peter, a letter written to Christ followers on how to live during times of crisis and suffering. I read many other passages in Scripture as well, and I spent a lot of time praying. This is what I determined back in March:

I've tried to use these as my guidelines for the past few month. I am volunteering in the community, trying to help make sure kids and families are fed. I'm trying not to engage in the divisiveness that has sadly become a part of this pandemic. I am mainly working from home, but am fully following the safe guidelines we have been provided with when I go out a couple of times a week. I've lessened the amount of news I take it. Not because I agree or disagree with the broadcasts, but because I am so emotional over the loss of life and over the divisiveness in our nation at a time when we should be caring for and supporting each other. In the early phases of staying at home I spent too much time reading news stories and social media and had times of totally checking out by binge watching TV. I got off track with eating well and exercising for the first month or so, but have turned that ship around. And then I remembered my training. That is what discipleship is all about after all, training to be like Jesus. Building our faith through spiritual practices so that we can draw from that deep well in times of crisis. So, I got back to what I know: Begin my days in God's Word before anything else. So when I look back through my journals for  the past months I find this:
The fruit of years of walking with the Lord and learning to trust Him; the years of spending time reading and studying His Word and learning how to live a life of faith, have borne fruit I didn't know I would need for such a time as this. I found that, while I was concerned about the virus and loss of life and about my family, I also had a peace about my role right now. 
What has not been on my mind: fear and anxiety. That is not to say there have not been times of riding emotional roller coasters, but I have found that the many years of being in God's Word and trusting Him through some difficult trials in the past have produced trust and faith in who God is, and in His goodness and faithfulness.. He is on control, even when the world feels out of control. I don't want to appear as if I have the answers to what is going on or to know exactly how we should handle life right now. It's going to look different for each of us because we each face different situations in this crisis. My time of reflection has just pleasantly surprised me with seeing the fruit of walking with the Lord and pursuing Him wholeheartedly in the practice of spiritual disciplines.

Last year I trained myself to memorize some Scripture passages, something I had always struggled with in the past. The two passages I memorized and meditated over repeatedly through the past year were Philippians 4:4-7 and Colossians 3:1-3. They both come mind so often these days and I've learned the value of having Scripture "hidden in my heart". Those passages have helped me stay anchored, grounded in my faith in God. More unexpected fruit that has blossomed in a time of need.

So, how are you engaging with your word of the year in light of the unknown? May I encourage you to take time in the weeks ahead and reflect on how life has been for you over the past few months. We'll provide questions and Scripture passages to help guide us in prayer and in reflection and evaluation.

Join us in the Living Your Word Community
My friends Bernice Hopper, and Valerie Sjodin, and I share insights through blog posts for creatively living a word of the year. In our Facebook group, we encourage one another by posting questions and prompts to inspire living out a word focus, keeping a journal etc. It is a safe place to ask for prayer and support. If you would like to connect with others in creative ways about living your word, you can ask to join our Living Your Word of the Year 2020 by clicking on the link below.

Hashtag for Instagram:  #livingyourword2020
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