Hiatus: a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process. Hiatus isn’t quite strong enough for the “gap” in My Monday Moments postings; it’s been over two months since the end of Advent and here I am into the second week of Lent, a time for self-examination, repentance, and intentional contemplation of Jesus’ forty days before the cross.
My daily life and activities continue to center on my husband’s pulmonary fibrosis condition. His positive attitude persists, his sense of humor unexpectantly erupts, his curiosity peaks while watching the feasting finches outside the window on these wintry days. We live with frequent oxygen level checks, attention to healthy diet, awareness of danger signs, and an eye on the calendar for medical appointments in addition to the “ordinarys” of daily life like cooking, housework, etc. All this leaves few moments for what is optimistically called “margin time,” but I’m (slowly!) learning to carefully measure my days. And hours. And minutes.
But how does all this relate to the question posed in the title: What Do I Actually Believe? I’m thinking of the Apostle Paul’s words: “Do not be anxious about anything…” What about when I feel anxiety tightening its bonds around my heart in the dark night? What does it mean to then “present my requests to God” so that the “peace of God which transcends all understanding” can “guard my heart and mind”? For me that “presenting” often means constant whispering the name “Jesus” until sleep comes.
For others the belief sticking point may be “In everything give thanks.” What exemptions do we offer when a relationship disappoints, when the job just doesn’t get better, when gas and grocery prices continue to rise? When not only does the washer/dryer expire, but four tires—count them!—need replacing as does the starter on the same car! Are we (am I) in essence saying, “Straighten all this out, God, and then I’ll awaken each morning with thanks on my lips?”
My heart breaks these days when sisters and brothers in Ukraine* are driven to examine what they believe as they flee all that was comfortable just days ago, as they watch elderly grandmothers hide out in damp and dark cellars, as children are sent off to safety not knowing if they will ever reunite, as war and death hover like impenetrable thunder clouds. Do I blithely quote Romans 8:28 or do I lament evil and weep as I pray Psalms 30 and 31, asking God to intervene, strike down those who wield deadly earthly power over people and places? It’s a small thing, but I bought a sturdy plastic sunflower to fasten to our patio railing as a reminder to myself to pray, and to our neighbors to not forget the people of Ukraine. (The sunflower has been—sometimes unofficially—the national flower of that country, ironically as a symbol of peace.)
In times of peace and prosperity, when illness doesn’t take up residence, when relationships are sweet, when life’s details fit nicely into our prescribed plan, it’s during those times that our “beliefs” seem sure and we quote them with composure–and perhaps with less than proper humility? But is God asking me, especially during these days of Lent, to examine what I believe? To shut my mouth until words align with mind and heart?
God’s grace and mercy surrounds me—and yes, even infiltrates me—as I present my weak self to him. I live in the midst of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message): No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it, and Romans 15:13 (J.B. Phillips): May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.
May these words bolster you—and me—as we together examine what we believe.
*Ukraine has a personal place in our hearts as Bob walked the streets of Kiev during the early 90s while planning for CoMission teams. And my paternal grandfather emigrated from there!