peace of the world

Obedience, not Opinions

Let’s take a deep breath. It seems like there’s something that’s making us say, “What?!” about every hour.  This is not normal life and frankly, very hard for the human being who is tied to routine and predictability.  Give yourself some grace and, as often as you can, take a deep breath.

Today, I have a very specific thing on my mind. I went to bed with a heavy heart last night.  For the first time through all of this, I felt afraid.  My fear wasn’t about the physical threat of the virus, though I’ve had those moments like everyone else.  The fear that came to the surface for me was my worry that many of us are stuck in our judgments of leadership decisions and might miss what God is doing.  From the beginning, God sent various events and people to wake us up.  Maybe there’s an opportunity, through prayer, counsel, and conversation, to seek His will and His Kingdom right here, right now.  This is what we should do always, but especially through times that we could easily misunderstand because of how difficult it is to surrender our will to His.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot of opinions.  A lot.  I have strong thoughts about most things…which is why I’m listening intently to the voice in my heart that is telling me to just be obedient.  This is different for me, but I’m grateful that this is the place I’m being drawn to.

It’s easy to be people of OPINION.  It’s more difficult to be people of OBEDIENCE. 

Our best bet here might just be to surrender…or else we might never have eyes to see how we should respond.  I think most things happening to us and around us should feel both wrong and right. Our first instinct, rightfully so, is to say “What?!?” to schools closing, people being out of work, and our church buildings closing and/or being less accessible to us.  I think what’s crucial, though, is after we have these natural reactions, the next step…for the sake of making room for peace and understanding…is to say, “But, I get it.”

Here are some general thoughts I’m having that are giving me peace:

  • We don’t have room in our hearts, in the midst of the unknown and fragility of what’s going on, to spend time and energy on things we can’t change.
  • Response is in our control. Our response and actions regarding what we CAN change is where we should put our energy.  Don’t ask: “WHY?!?” Ask: “What now?”
  • Let’s have compassion for our leaders.  Making decisions that will affect countless people is very difficult.  Our politicians and church leaders don’t need us publicly questioning them and shaming them at this time.  If you have a real concern that you’ve discerned is something to bring to a leader, and isn’t just a personal frustration, reach out to them in private and with love.
  • This situation is so clearly unifying.  If we let it divide us, then we’re missing what’s actually happening.
  • “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
  • How can we be creative in our abnormal circumstances and be aware of how we can grow in personal prayer, connection, and growth?

Here are some more specific thoughts that are giving me peace about church life being different:

  • Again, accept the things you cannot change and control, and move to responding with obedience and love.  We are living in a reality that requires us to adapt to things changing in a minute.  It’s a waste of energy to spend time talking with others about whether or not something is the “right choice.” When I find myself doing that, I try to stop and put my energy into accepting and adapting.   We need to save our energy to respond to the decisions that are ultimately for our health and safety.
  • Let us be diligent in recognizing that God is ALWAYS a constant.  That’s not changing.  Prayer is also ALWAYS a constant as well…if we let it be.
  • Let us ask ourselves:  What did Christians do when they couldn’t worship communally? What do Christians do when they can’t be at the church? They worship where they are.  They remain the Church and remain in prayer.  It is very likely that the church will show up in ways that we could never conceive of outside this situation.
  • Jesus on the Cross is God revealing who He is and who we are.  Our belief, our faith, becomes real when when we follow.  Jesus Christ took the suffering of the world upon Himself and died for each human person…so that they could live.  That’s the calling of each of us today…to put to death our own “selves” so that we can be living sacrifices for each other.
  • On a normal day, there are people keeping the services for others…monastics all over the world. For now, let’s recognize the beauty and power in just a few offering, “on behalf of all and for all.”
  • Can you imagine the different creative ways that people are going to adapt? For instance, the possibilities of what can come from church services being streamed all over the internet is pretty awesome.  We will see what God does.
  • What a drastic way to remind us that God is not confined to the church building. It’s often a temptation and distraction to make an idol out of the Church.  We are each a member of the Lord’s eternal and universal Church…not simply a name on a membership list. Maybe this is a temporary wake up call to remind us who we are, so when we return to normalcy, our church membership is embraced fully and without ceasing.
  • We need to ask: Right now, who are “the least of these?” Serving them is the priority.  And we will pray from where we are with those of us who are serving at the altar.  If you love your neighbor, you serve God.  If you serve God, you are worship…your life is worship.
  • “If you can’t see Christ in the beggar on the street, you won’t see him in the chalice,” – St. John Chrysostom. Worship our Lord on the altar of each other’s hearts.

Let us seek peace through obedient response to what is out of our control.  What now?  What is most needful and how can I serve God and others here and now?

Lord have mercy.

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