We never thought 2020 would be like this. In March, I’m not sure any of us were thinking we’d be arguing over masks, and school starting or not starting, or how to best navigate life in July! Even as I write these words, I find myself in disbelief. And yet, here we are. Many of us feel good, we are not sick, just steaming from the heat index. We have found ourselves eating in more. We may be bringing in less income as a family but working just as hard or harder virtually. When we look ahead to make plans, we don’t see a lot changing about this mode of operation. This fact makes it hard to plan, to lead, to look forward, and to inspire others. And yet, as spiritual leaders, these are part of our calling and our responsibilities!
This past week I was invited to lead a zoom group in a devotional time during their gathering. This choir meets weekly to check in, to really see one another for a time, and to walk this journey together. Although they cannot sing together, they are providing supportive community to and for each other. As the leader texted to ask if I could come, the word “hope” popped up into the text. It made no sense grammatically. It wasn’t supposed to be there – and yet, there it was. Hope popped up out the of the clear blue … text box! So I decided to offer a devotion on hope; how could I not?
And hope is like that sometimes, popping up, isn’t it? Hope is something we hold out for as Christians. We know that any prayer, any request before God is heard. We believe God answers our prayers. We know that when we seek, we find – eventually; all in God’s time. But hope can sneak up on us; God’s time is often a long time in human time!
In Hebrew, the word for hope is qavah. It also means to wait. Actually, to be more accurate, I understand qavah to mean “waiting actively, with anticipation.” As busy as we are, as hot and tired as we may be, as bewildered by the state of things, let’s not lose hope. More accurately, let’s hold onto and wait actively, anticipating God’s action in this pandemic. We see God working everyday, but we are overwhelmed right now by differences of opinion about how we should move forward and the sheer volume of information out there in cyberspace. My hope is that we will actively wait, actively hope with one another as people of faith. In Isaiah 40:31 we read these words:
“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (NRSV)
Maybe we need a rest from cyberspace and reading every article we can get our hands on. Maybe we need a rest from the constant barrage of COVID thoughts and actions. Maybe we need a rest from social media and all the offerings we see daily. This may be hard to do with all the worship available to us via social media; consider watching one service and then disconnecting. Observe your sabbath time with family fun or breathing deeply in a comfortable position (also called napping) or reading a good book. Read scripture just for you. Share your needs with God. Rely on your covenant friends for support. And, wait upon the Lord. Let your faith guide you rather than your brain or your feet or your eyes on a screen. Allow God the space and the time in your life to offer renewal and rest and rejuvenation!
I find that the more tired I am, the harder it is to wait patiently. I find that I am only sleeping well every other night or so during this time. So, weirdly, I have to try harder to get good sleep and really rest. I have to try harder, more intentionally, to set work aside, to set aside family needs to the next day, so that I can prepare myself adequately with sleep and downtime. Please make time, take time, being intentional about caring for yourself. And then wait upon the Lord; watch hope pop up!
I appreciate all you are all doing to stay in touch with your congregations and to attend to the needs of the community. Now, attend to your health, physically and spiritually. If you are already there, that is great. If not, find a way to do something kind for yourself each day. Every day. And observe Sabbath. We ARE all in this together so let’s hold out hope together and wait upon the Lord.
God bless you!