Some Personal Reflections on a Public Crisis

I have a normal routine of early devotional time with the Lord that includes Scripture, prayer and journaling. The health of my soul and inner life needs all three of those practices. And while I have been engaged with Scripture and prayer over the last several days through the ebbs of disruptions and flows of new developments, I have not been able to slow down and put pen to paper. In the early morning hours today, I was able to re-enter that space, and consider some of what is unfolding around us.

There is a lot of information flooding every communication platform. It is urgent and incessant. It is easy and almost unavoidable to get taken captive by the constant stream of updates to the ever shifting climate. But the divine directive to "be still and know that I am God" is not a suggestion for neatly ordered lives. That is God's wisdom for the most chaotic and intensely disordered moments of our lives. Stillness and quietness of soul is most needed in the times are most frenzied and clamorous.

Let me urge you toward a deliberate and daily time practice of stillness and quietness of heart, where you accept God's standing invitation to communion with Him, and where you invite Him to do a searching inventory of your own inner life. The Holy Spirit loves to show us our own hearts as a ay to draw us near to the very heart of God, and the times we're in right now call for such heavenly intervention.

Here's what the Spirit showed me in that time alone with Jesus today: that every idol that competes for the worship of my heart and the allegiance of my life is being gloriously torn down by circumstances I would never choose. Here's a quick sampling of what I mean:

The Idol of Comfort/Convenience

I want things to be simple, familiar, predictable and made to order. I want instant access and ease of access. I love that I can indulge most cravings and eliminate most frustrations in a reasonably quick time frame. Technology, affluence, infrastructure, and a whole host of other first world realities afford great conveniences, and I rage against those being undercut or undermined. Just the near term interruption of these things, and the prospects of longer term inconvenience reveals the spoiled little brat inside of me.

The Idol of Freedom

I like being able to do what I want to do. I like options. I to determine my schedule, my activities, my company, my menu, my entertainment. These freedoms are being limited, not by some oppressive tyrant, or controlling authoritative figure, but by unseen force exerting itself in a very real and powerful way.

The Idol of Control

Speaking of control... I want that too. I want to determine means and ends wherever possible. I want to set limits and consequences. I want to define reality and dictate the terms of things. I want to feel like I determine outcomes. All such illusions are being removed. The lack of control I always have is being very acutely imposed.

The Idol of Sports/Entertainment

In the current environment, watching sports would be the most natural and enjoyable escape or coping mechanism to sail through the storm. Obviously, even that precious outlet has been removed. I am being confronted with a measure of boredom that the perpetually adolescent part of me is whining and complaining about almost constantly.

The Idol of Leisure

I also like being able to go do things that are fun. My activities of choice tend toward communal in nature though, so while I can get outside and do active things for fun, I'm largely restricted from doing them in the more relational context I prefer. The exception is going to the gym, which is now closed. A month into joining the YMCA and starting to workout consistently, that source of leisure has been revoked. I'm back where I was.

The Idol of People

I love people, which is a good thing. But, my instincts are to escape God beckoning me to Himself with human interaction. I sometimes surround myself with people in order to avoid God or myself. That is being severely limited right now.

A Severe Mercy

These are insights into myself under the current climate. I make no assumptions about your challenges personally, though I think some of these personal struggles are true more broadly in our culture. I make no presumption as the the ultimate "why" of this pandemic and it's impact on the world. That's above my pay grade. But, I would point out this one potential benefit, or at least a way that God might be working out higher purposes within this upheaval for any of us who will be responsive to Him.

If our greatest need is to be in fellowship with God, connected to Him, and fully alive to Him, then would it not be a merciful deliverance of God to expose the folly of every competing idol, and to rid our lives of the very things we think we need, but which keep us from the thing we actually most need? It is a severe mercy perhaps, in our time, but a mercy nonetheless, that God would tear down and strip away so much of what we cling to, but which keeps us distant from Him. Perhaps there are counterfeit gods we have personally cherished too deeply which God may be using this public crisis to eradicate lovingly from our lives.

What if the Sovereign God of the universe who presides over even pandemics, is dealing neither punitively with us, nor looking indifferently upon us? What if he is, rather, lovingly pursuing us and making a way for us to step out of the charade of self-sufficiency and personal autonomy and into real life with Him through total dependence upon Him?

The way into real life is opened up to us, as always. We need only cross the threshold through repentance for our God-suppressing self-reliance and our God-diminishing pleasure seeking, while consciously turning trusting in the the perfections of Christ to both save me and satisfy me. This is a time to draw near to Him who aligns himself with those who are of a contrite heart and lowly spirit.

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