Oscar and I have a new game. One we’ve invented on our daily walk. We play with our shadows. It involves him standing in front of me so his shadow is hidden by mine. I say “where is Oscar?” and then I step away and Oscar’s shadow appears. Oscar points to his shadow and laughs, before ducking back into my shadow and the game begins again.
But as I have stood behind Oscar, letting my shadow cover his, I can’t help but think of how we can find rest and comfort in the shadow of God. For the game to work, Oscar had to be close to me so that my shadow could hide his. Close to God is where we will find rest. The best place to be.
“Those who live in the shelter of the most high will find rest in the shadow of the almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
The evidence appears to be mounting up. Daily increases of people with COVID-19 being announced. The tally worldwide on an exponential climb. It’s confronting. It’s scary.
But we do not have to live dictated by our circumstances. We are in lock-down but we are not locked in. It is a reality for us now but doesn’t have to be our perspective. We need to look at what is going on around us with God’s perspective.
“When you stay in the right perspective, it helps you navigate through issues” (Shawn Bolz)
I’m taking a little bit of licence here with the term circumstantial evidence and not applying in its legal sense. But rather to say don’t let the evidence of these circumstances be the one loud voice in our day. Don’t let it triumph by letting fear grip our souls. Take our worry and anxiety and give it to God.
We need to remember that God is above circumstances. He gets the final say, not covid-19 and not the enemy. The best thing we can do is lift our eyes from these circumstances and keep them firmly fixed on the Lord.
For my eyes are toward You, O GOD, the Lord; In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless. (Psalm 141:8)
‘I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)
“Go to the mattresses. You’re at war.” (You’ve got mail)
In You’ve got mail, Joe Fox gives Kathleen Kelly some advice from The Godfather. Time to hit the mattresses! What great advice for us now! We’re at war against an invisible enemy. And our tactic and strategy – time to stay home and maybe literally spend more time resting!
The origin of the phrase “to the mattresses” dates back to 1530 when the combined troops of Charles V and Medici Pope Clement VII lay siege to Florence. The bell tower of San Miniato al Monte was part of the defences. The locals used the ploy of hanging mattresses on the outside of the tower to minimize damage from cannon fire.
Hundreds of years later it has become part of pop culture when it was used in the Godfather as a call to war. Time to prepare for battle.
So here, on the eve of Lockdown for COVID-19, I say it’s time to go to the mattresses. To stay home and fight this virus.
But more importantly we have another weapon! Prayer!
We pray for wisdom, comfort and strength. We pray for God’s protection and deliverance from the coronavirus. May God’s peace reign in this time.
To the mattresses!
Today our Prime Minister, for the first time, gave an address to the Nation. A warning of an encroaching and invisible enemy and for us to do our part to keep it at bay. We’re told to stay calm and not to panic as our daily norm dissolves around us. Supermarkets remain overwhelmed, and popping out just for the bread and milk is no longer such a quick errand. And the fear, the worry lurks.
Immediately after Jacinda Ardern’s address, Oscar’s music went back on, and the lyrics grabbed my attention.
“Let’s take a walk in the jungle. Walking in the jungle. We’re not afraid. We’re not afraid. “
Yes, COVID-19 is serious. Yes, daily life as we know has changed. Yes, we need to be careful. But we do not need to be afraid or be in fear. God is with us. He is our rock, our strength and our help. Daily life and the world as we know it may be changing significantly but God is unchanging. His love is unchanging and His promises unchanging.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7
Not alone. Not afraid. Trusting in God.
It was less than a year after September 11, 2001 and I found myself in New York for work. The absence of the Twin Towers on the New York skyline was confronting and jarring, seeing Ground Zero powerful and moving. A city changed forever. But what I remember most was the fear. As I went to board my plane at JFK International Airport to head home, I felt the fear. So strong it was almost tangible. It seemed to lie over the airport like a thick blanket. And for the first time, as our plane took off, I was scared. Fearful of a random crash or something….It was only in hindsight that I realised the impact that this atmosphere of fear had.
Today, as the world grapples with the coronavirus, as borders close and as countries go into lock down, fear lurks again. It’s evident in the empty supermarket shelves and sold out hand sanitizers. It’s present in conversations and people’s reactions. It seeks to dominate, to catch us up in its whirlwind.
But we don’t need to succumb to its ways. We have God. And God needs to be the focus of our attention. While we obey governmental directives and act practically and wisely each day to prevent the virus, we need not be in fear. Love drives out fear. And what is love, but God Himself. God is with us, promising us a future of hope. A future beyond the virus and all its repercussions.
“God met me more than halfway, He freed me from anxious fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
Here we are, well underway with the start of a new year, the new decade though just beginning. With all the promise and potential that new beginnings hold. Even more so, we have this wonderful promise filled truth that our God rejoices in offering us a new beginning. Something that supecedes a calendar date. It’s a new beginning for life and for eternity. Any mistakes or messups, failures or betrayals we can leave behind and take hold of the grace that God gives us for every new day.
The truth is we don’t know what the future holds. We have our hopes, dreams and plans and dates on our calendars, but nonetheless the days ahead are unknown. But no matter what we step into this year, what opportunities or obstacles we face, the good times and the challenging, we do have the certainty that God is there with us.
What better way to start the year, than in the hand of God.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
(Excerpt of poem by Minnie Louise 1908)