As of today, September 23rd, it will have been 191 days since March 15th. March 25th is the day that began the stay at home order in Indiana. However, for many March 15th is when things shifted and schools closed, and we realized something like we had never experienced before was happening around us. I think that I, like many, hoped that after some time of staying home that things would be “under control” and by summer we could be back to normal. If I’m honest it didn’t take long for me to realize that my timeline was unrealistic. I also began to realize that “normal” as we knew it may be shifted entirely. Much like how I never again expect to be able to just saunter up without a ticket to a gate at an airport like I had prior to 9/11.
What has also become clear to me is that I have no sense of timeline anymore. There are times where I hope that by spring things will look a lot different and hugs might be more prevalent, and then another day where I think that it may not even be likely by the fall of 2021. So really, it is just admitting I have no idea. So how do we center ourselves in the midst of such uncertainty? I find myself crying out with the psalmist “How long, Lord, how long?”
Recently my mind was brought to the story of Noah. Many of us know the story of the man that builds a huge boat/ark and takes on animals of every kind because the world is going to be flooded for 40 days and 40 nights. However, we often forget that it was much longer than the 40 days for Noah. After the rains it says that “the waters swelled on the earth for 150 days.” Now if you do your math 40 plus 150 is 190 — about the same amount of time that I feel like the chaos has been swelling around me and this world. However, the next verse is what I find myself clinging to during this time: “But God remembered Noah.” Noah’s life on the ark didn’t end at that moment, it was just that the waters began to recede. It was another 150 days before the waters abated, and in the seventh month, the ark came to rest at a mountain. On the tenth month the tops of mountains appeared, and after 40 more days Noah opened the window of the ark. It was two more weeks before Noah got confirmation that the waters were drying up, and then another two months before things were dried up enough to leave the ark.
It’s a story of God trying to wash away the corruption and violence from the earth. The symbol that many know from this story is the rainbow, because it talks of a bow being placed in the sky to remind God and God’s people of the covenant that the waters will never again become a flood that will destroy all flesh. When I was in high school and my family and I were experiencing some struggles, a pastor gave me a wooden rainbow. She named that she knew we were going through a lot, but to never forget that God remembers you and promises to abide with you through any storm.
Over and over in scripture there are stories of God’s people that help us understand how humans struggle to figure out how we live in this world. Yet over and over again God pursues God’s people. God chases after us with forgiveness, grace, and compassion. God promises over and over to abide with us. God demonstrates over and over that the way to live in a community of faith is through love and forgiveness. To be a community where there is “enough” for everyone.
Scripture never promises to take away all pain, struggle, or suffering. It does, however, promise that God will abide with us and that God will never stop working to join with us in creating new life.
One thing that became clear during the pandemic is that our society, when it was “normal,” was not a place where all people had enough or were flourishing. The pandemic unveiled many weaknesses in our social fabric. We worried about how kids would be safe or have food if they weren’t at school. We wondered how those without access to health care would get care. We learned about the trials faced by those in this economy forced to live paycheck to paycheck. We have seen the struggle of how to love our neighbor if that means giving up something for oneself. We have seen how the pandemic has been more deadly for black and brown people in our country due to many of these injustices in “normal” times. I also realized how easy it was to be caught up in the rat race of busyness in the “normal” time. And as I wonder how we can claim the gift of some less scheduled time, I also know not everyone has had the luxury of “down time.” Not everyone could just stay home.
As we approach the six-month mark since Indiana’s stay at home order, I cling to the promise that God remembers us and abides with us. I also pray that we might listen deeply and be led by the Spirit to create a new normal, that might be a better glimpse into the community God created us to live in together. What might that look like?
Sept. 23, 2020