LENT FOR THE QUARANTINED

Suzie Lind joined the Journey Church staff in 2017. She accidentally stepped into church ministry in 2002 when she was looking for a part-time job that would allow her to stay home with her kids. It was then that her love for the church was rekindled and a deep desire to help people in their spiritual formation began to grow. Her experience includes pastoring women, leadership development, and leading retreats. Her greatest joy is seeing people’s love for Jesus fuel their daily rhythms of life. Suzie’s primary role is to help people embark on their spiritual path with God and others during their time at Journey. She helps people navigate into Villages, leads the movement of women and is part of the teaching team.

It’s early morning as I write at my kitchen table and the raindrops from the night before are still dripping from the rooftop. The sky is gray, my kids are still sleeping and all is quiet in my home. The sound of silence feels particularly profound today because even though it’s spring break, the world is finding its way to rest. Slowly but surely we are being told to stay home, keep six feet of distance from one another and practice caution to flatten the curve, as they say. Covid-19, the Coronavirus, has taken over the brain shelves of humanity and our immediate community is in the process of shutting down all social interaction, to go dormant in an effort to make this disease do the same.

A few weeks ago, we entered into this season of Lent, following Jesus into the wilderness, so that we would perhaps work the muscle that wanders in the darkness and train it to faith even when our mind says otherwise. The darkness that comes with the fear of being alone. The darkness that comes during times of searching for the assurance that we are not alone. The wondering if God is truly with us in our questions, doubts, our anger, our loneliness, and our heartache. Little did we know then that we would literally be wandering into this time of quarantine, facing the possibilities of being lonely, disrupted and disconnected and with little option but to be present with all that our circumstances are revealing to us.

A friend last Sunday called it “worldwide Lent” and today another friend called it a worldwide Sabbath. Both Lent and Sabbath come with a cost. Both are meant to disrupt our routines and bring us into a revived dependency on God. Both invite us to let go of our comforts and as Americans, our freedom to come and go as we please, with whom we please is of great comfort.

Part of my fast this year for Lent has been to not engage with my phone, especially social media, until I have read something good for my mind and heart for at least an hour, or practiced some other discipline of solitude that turns my heart towards God. Yet, with the constantly changing and unfolding news and updates informing us of the course of this virus and its effects on the economy, community, gatherings, business, etc. it has been really hard not to pick up my phone first thing to know what the day holds. To have a plan. To have some sense of control. To get a grip on my own anxiety so that others around me don’t have to absorb it. 

While I do not believe that God creates disease, I do believe that his grace floods the cracks of all the brokenness we live in and are a part of. I find it a grace that this pandemic and these quarantines are during the dark and holy season of Lent. Our hearts have already been preparing to go to the lonely places, to face fear and uncertainty with the knowledge our risen Savior has gone before us. After all, as the Psalmist walks through the darkest valley and does not fear because he knows God is with him. He looks around and sees a table prepared for him in the presence of everything that is going against him and he continues his walk knowing goodness and love will follow him all of the days of his life.

Author Andy Crouch joked on Twitter this week that he wasn’t planning on giving up quite this much for Lent. While this is indeed funny and we can all commiserate, we can also take heart in knowing this is the Lenten season God has prepared for us. Again, referring to Psalm 23, he is making us lie down, inviting us to hunker in and also get creative in the ways we reach for each other, help one another and bear the weaknesses of those without strength (Romans 15:1).

Finally, Lent gently guides us from the darkness of winter into the first light of spring. As we embrace these grey and dismal days of quarantined darkness, let’s go forth with the hope of Spring. Like every season, this one will pass. It won’t be forever. The winter one or the Covid one. For such a time as this, we have opportunities for planting, rooting, pruning, and blooming. May we embrace it all, knowing we will look back and sense the sweetness of the Shepherd’s presence and remember the table set before us.

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