Then, like so many of you, we were told we couldn’t meet.
Isolation has at times felt forced, other times like a welcome retreat from the uncertainty in the world. But my small group has continued to meet virtually, and, like a regular prayer life, I find a sustaining power in our gatherings. We confess it’s hard to dive into the Word these days. It’s hard to focus on anything. Newsfeeds, emails, demands from our children and workplaces distract us from anything but reactionary functioning. During the two virtual meetings we’ve had so far, it takes us most of an hour to feel comfortable enough to pray.
During that time, we confess our anxieties -- about food shortages, about continued disruption of everyday life, about the people who won’t be able to receive help, about the people who are risking their lives to provide help. We feel like we shouldn’t be afraid, which just adds pressure to our inner turmoil. We remember Jesus says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
How, Lord? We ask.
We offer each other encouragement. Say the Lord’s prayer when you get up in the morning. Write in a gratitude journal. Look up. Step out in faith when you wonder if you should act. Give.
We remember Paul’s words, from Ephesians and other letters, words like:
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2)
We reflected on how now more than ever, while our families are together in the house 24/7, we need to bear with one another. Each of us has felt overwhelmed, angry, and exhausted at different times. When I made my last shopping trip to the grocery store, I noticed less than friendly faces, eyeing me with suspicion -- don’t linger here, they told me silently. Never before have we had a greater opportunity to attempt to understand each other’s outbursts and frustrated remarks. Paul reminds us how to respond:
“Be very careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” (Ephesians 5:15)
After our group’s time of sharing, one of us opens in prayer. And then another offers prayer. And another. Prayers of both thanksgiving and petition. Until it’s all poured out of us and someone has closed our popcorn-style prayer and we are left smiling at each other over the computer screen, bonded by our sisterhood, our many variations of the struggles and hopes we have for each other and the world around us.
Let’s do this again next week, I say.
Yes, they agree.
Prior to the start of this new reality of isolation, our small group shared many life concerns, and I’m so grateful that this group was already in place when our whole world changed.
Do you have brothers and sisters you can pray with? Do you hesitate because you don’t know how to begin? If you don’t have time for a group, consider beginning by making a list -- of everyone on your heart during this season. Like Paul, lift them up to the Lord, speaking their names to him. Then, send those people a note telling them of your gratitude for their lives and how you’re praying for them during this time.
Paul, bound in chains, couldn’t be with the congregations. But he sent messages. We, in this time, can take our cue from him, first by remembering his prayer that still endures today:
“...I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.