On March 24, 2020, the governor of Michigan issued Executive Order No. 2020-21 which called for a “temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” Businesses that were considered non-essential were ordered to cease operations, and citizens were asked to remain in their homes except for doing those things they needed to in order to survive (get groceries, purchase medications, exercise while practicing appropriate social distancing guidelines, etc.).
We, my brothers and sisters, have essentially been quarantined.
What was meant to be a shock to the system in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has become for many of us a shock to our own personal systems and rhythms of life. If you’re not stir crazy yet, expect to be in the near future!
We are a culture who for decades has prized doing. Americans have long held that we have the best innovators, the most able work force, and an unstoppable spirit of ingenuity. The most common answer to “How are you doing?” has been, “Busy!” And we have prided ourselves in that. Which isn’t all bad. For decades that American spirit has also allowed us to serve the rest of the world with food relief, medical supplies, clean water initiatives, and a variety of other blessings (including planting churches around the world and spreading the gospel).
But now we’ve been asked to stop. We’ve been ordered to stay at home.
Which got me thinking of a couple of bible passages. The first is from Exodus 24:12
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here…”
Hebrew scholars (Hebrew is the original language of what we call the Old Testament) say that the language here is redundant. The word “stay” translated here is the Hebrew word “be.” So God says to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and be here.”
If Moses were up on the mountain, where else would he be?
Why would God have to command him, once up on top of the mountain, to also be there?
A number of years ago, Tracy and I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t been, you should plan a trip (after you’re allowed out of your house again!). It is absolutely breathtaking. It is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I remember standing at the edge trying to take in the vastness, the breadth and depth, of what I was seeing. You can’t put it into words.
But honestly, after 10 minutes or so of standing at the edge of the canyon, after taking panoramic pictures and selfies, I remember thinking, “What do I do now? Is there a hike I should go on? Is there a better vantage point for pictures I should go to? Thank goodness I didn’t plan multiple days here. What would I do?”
The rabbis say God knew Moses would ascent the mountain and likely immediately be somewhere else. Thinking about the people still at the bottom of the mountain. Thinking about the long journey back down. Wondering if he’d brought enough food and water and toilet paper. Like us, he would be trying to think of what to do next. But God just wants him to stay at home on top of the mountain. Be patient and breathe and begin to understand your worth and your value don’t come from all that you do. They come from recognizing the source of your identity, worth, and value come from your relationship with God.
Which brings us to our second passage – this one from the book of Acts. Acts 1:4-8 says:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, [Jesus] gave them this command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Do you see how Jesus commands his disciples to stay at home and wait patiently for God’s Spirit and they immediately ask if Jesus is about to do what they hoped he would? Jesus says wait, and they want to know what to do.
If you’re anything like me, during this stay at home order, you’re looking for something to do. Many of these inclinations are good. You want to call your friends and family to check on them. You want to find ways to help those in desperate situations. You want to rake your lawn. You want to see how much work you can get done in your newly furnished home office (aka desk in the basement away from everyone else!).
But I would like to invite you to set aside a time or two each day just to be. Reconnect with God. Let yourself live and move in God’s Spirit, not the rhythm of our culture. Psalm 1 says the one who is blessed and whose life bears fruit is the one who delights and meditates in the Word of the Lord. Perhaps we can start there.
1. Choose a bible reading plan from the YouVersion app or www.bible.com. There are plans that address specific challenges in life (i.e. anxiety, worry, fear, etc.), or plans that read through the whole bible.
2. Look up the S.O.A.P. readings on our website here. These are larger chunks of scripture, but you can apply the S.O.A.P. method to any scripture you read.
3. Try a new form of prayer and meditation like Lectio Divina. You can find a simple guide here.
Friends, each moment we have is a gift from God. God desires to give us life and life to the full. Jesus spent time in silence and solitude regularly in order that his life could best reflect the love God has for the world. May the same be true of us.
The Lord is with you, now and forevermore.