“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” – Psalm 139:7
It was a weird Lent.
I wrote last month about how Lent is my favorite church season, how the introspection and permission to be sad fulfill a need of sorts. Yet here I am, the week after Easter, wondering where the season went. My Lenten devotion book went unused for days. Despite working at a church, I felt disconnected from God without being physically in a church building. The spiritual routine I’d become so accustomed to fell to the wayside. The weekend is only different in that my wife isn’t working in the office from 9 to 5. Even with Zoom worship, Sundays pass by without a second glance. Wednesday, usually a day for soup dinners and Vespers, is just another weekday. My cry is less of ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and more of ‘My word, my word, what day is it?’
If you’ve read this far thinking ‘same,’ I hate to break it to you, but I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t discovered some secret pattern for keeping your faith walk steady in the midst of COVID-19. I don’t know how to keep a pattern for prayer. I can’t tell you why Sundays don’t feel quite the same. But I don’t think that we need to feel the same about it.
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury writes: “We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” Basque philosopher Miguel deUnamuno once said: “To fall into habit is to begin to cease to be.”
If this time of self-imposed quarantine and social distancing is teaching us anything, it’s this: sometimes things need to change. The habit of church liturgy and hymnody, the Sunday-Wednesday-workweek cadence, the rhythm of our lives have been disrupted. But what if that’s okay? What if we need this break? What if God is using this time to disrupt us on purpose? Paul writes to the Romans that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28). This may be a time of difficulty, but it’s not a time without God. It’s not a time without faith. It’s a time to look for God in everything.
When you’re working from home, don’t forget to thank God. Thank Him for the internet you’re using to video chat with colleagues and access files in the cloud. Thank Him for the technology that allows you to continue to work when so many others can’t. Even when your internet goes out for a minute, thank Him that you had it at all, and thank Him for the break you get from work while you’re rebooting the modem for the 14th time today.
When you’re binging Netflix on the couch, thank God for the people that created the shows and the actors that perform them. Find Him in the show you’re watching; are you catching up on Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson? Marvel at God’s creation. Are you rewatching old episodes of M.A.S.H.? Pray for the troops. Are you engrossed in the Food Network? Donate to a local food bank.
While you’re watching movies with your family, look for Him in unexpected places. Did you know that The Lord of the Rings was written with biblical themes? Look for them in the film. There are whole Bible studies based around Watching Movies with Christian Eyes. Or maybe pick a film tonight that’s overtly faith-based. I’ve enjoyed Facing the Giants (from 2006) if you’re a fan of sports films, or the animated Prince of Egypt (from 1998) is always a family favorite.
You might have to look a little bit deeper than you think, but the fingerprint of God is in everything. He formed the whole of creation, and has a part in all of it. I even wrote my undergraduate thesis on finding a Jesus allegory in The Golden Compass, a book by a devout atheist. It’s surprising how much you can find God when you’re looking. He’s everywhere, even in the places you don’t expect to see Him.
Our God is a God who is always there (Psalm 139:7-12). He’s a God of quiet whispers (1 Kings 19:11-12). He’s a God that wants us to wrestle with Him (Genesis 32:24-30). He’s a God we can argue with (Genesis 18:23-32). Our God is a lot of things, but He’s never gone. Even when (and especially when) your patterns and practices of faith falter, He waits for you. He’s there for you to find. He chases after you, meeting you on the road home to Him (Luke 15:20).
Take some time this quarantine and look for God in unexpected places. Even when all this is over, the social distancing practices are ended, and you reestablish your ‘new normal,’ you’re still quarantined with God.