A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, June 2020

How are you feeling, friends? How are your souls today? Your hearts and weary minds— I wonder how they are faring in this moment. I wonder how each of us is really doing if we stop, breathe, and consider.

Certainly in the past when someone has asked me how I am doing, my most natural response has been a quick and positive affirmation: Fine! Nothing to see here! All is well! But even beyond that common, oftentimes distancing nicety, I have realized that my knee-jerk reaction to hardships of any kind has typically been of that same vein: It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s all going to be fine!

And I have to be honest with myself here about what’s at the root of my response. Is my insistence that all is well based on my deep faith that God is ultimately at work for good and thus all will indeed be well in the end? Yes, I sincerely hope so. But if I dig a little bit deeper on either side of that root, does my perspective also grow out of fortunate past experiences, having always existed in a place of unfathomable privilege where things truly have turned out fine in most cases? Undeniably, that answer is also yes. I have been uncomfortably sitting with that realization for quite a while now.

During this time of quarantine, I have felt an intermingling of many different emotions, but perhaps none more so than gratitude and guilt. I feel rushes of gratitude every day that I am healthy, that my people are safe, that we have a roof over our heads, that the world is so staggeringly beautiful despite the sickness spreading its way through the masses… Yet right on the heels of that gratitude comes the guilt. I think of all my friends and neighbors, as well as people I have never even met, who are suffering. Why should my family and I be “fine” and relatively unscathed when so many are in the desperate trenches of life?

Even more glaring, during this time of deep civil unrest, tragic racial tension, and widespread injustice, my heart feels further shattered in two.

As I trip humbly through these important, difficult conversations with my children, I am holding up heaps of heavy, prayerful questions to the Lord that have bubbled up from my heart as well as from theirs. And in our attempts to transform those questions into actions by giving and by helping, those efforts— though well-intentioned— can feel like mere drops in the pan.

And yet, we know that God does not call us to despair, even in the bleakest of times. He seeks to encourage each of us, not to discourage. And it is courage indeed that we need to proceed. No, things are not fine right now, and yes, we must be honest about that.

Perhaps God has quieted us all down for a reason over these past several months so that we would be best positioned to listen, to reflect, to accept hard truths, and to learn in order for real growth and real change. Perhaps 2020, the year of unsettling hardships, is also the year that we are all given an opportunity for the clearer vision that this year’s name suggests.

God is up to something, and I am praying for the courage and strength to rise to His call, to move past complacency, and to be part of His mighty force of empathic love in this world.

There is no way to cleanly wrap up these untethered ramblings on such a messy, crucial, ongoing topic, so I’ll leave you with a prayer sonnet I wrote during a recent sleepless night. My most fervent prayer has been for the Lord to help all of us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to mend the heart-breaking injustices, to rise above divisive mistrusts, and even to move beyond the distancing niceties that hold each of us captive on self-secluding islands. I pray for honesty, for compassion, for reconciliation, and for the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding…

Our Father shared, who calls us each his child,
Breathe into us this day your peace and calm.
Yes, you, who loves us fully— fierce and wild—
Please offer our wrecked souls your saving balm.

These struggles feel too real and cut too deep.
We grieve for all we know not how to say.
We mourn for those who do not wake from sleep,
And those who pray all night for light of day.

We cry out for your help and for your grace,
We long for union and for understanding,
We crave to see the mercy of your face,
To feel the powerful strength of your commanding. 

Make real your promised rest from toiled labors,
That we may freely, boldly love our neighbors. 

Amen.

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