To quote Lin-Manuel Miranda's version of George Washington, "Can I be real a second?
For just a millisecond? Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?" (Like every other household in America, we are currently obsessed with Hamilton. Again.)
At the moment, I feel many Christians are acting like Americans first and Christians second. We are either believing in or condemning man-made systems as though they are the most significant authorities in our lives: government, law enforcement and school districts. We believe that because we have freedom, we should have freedom from all trouble. We are looking for and earthly power to save us. Or we are looking for someone to blame.
This moment is very difficult, very complex, and filled with grieving many things we've lost. But in that, we may have lost one essential truth of our faith: God is at work for good in all things for those that love him and are called according to his purpose.
That includes working for the good of our elementary school kids who miss playing with their friends.
That includes working for the good of our junior high kids who are stuck between childhood and adulthood and don't have the social skills to navigate friendships that just got more complicated.
That includes working for the good of our high school kids who wish they were living in a John Hughes movie, but are at home with us watching John Hughes movies instead.
That includes working for the good of our college students that are not going off to college.
That includes working for the good of our special needs children that can't get access to services.
That includes working for the good of our kids with ADHD who are struggling with learning from a screen.
God works for the good of our character, our souls, and his plan, even when the things we think are best for us are not functioning.
I live in a middle to upper-class suburb in Southern California, with one of the best school systems in the country. It's why I live here, because I value education and a I value public school. But I also recognize that education and achievement in it is the god to which my community bows down and worships. That god, right now, has shown itself to be unreliable. Our kids can't learn and achieve like they've always been able to. And it's making people go crazy. Parents that rally and sign petitions to get the best for their kids -- from shade structures at lunch to higher level math in elementary school -- can't get that right now. We have almost no control over what happens to our kids this fall.
If I am a person of faith, I'm supposed to have some philosophy about this. Rather than declaring to the world on social media how terrible this is for our babies, instead, I want to declare that my kids can be strong and prepared for the world because of the good God who loves their souls and fights for them.
I don't declare that the virus has no power to hurt me, as some of my brothers and sisters do, because I don't believe it's Biblical or true based on evidence. Christians die of the flu, of cancer, of car accidents. We are supposed to exercise wisdom and caution in this world, just as Jesus wouldn't throw himself off the temple roof to test God's goodness.
I believe in lament. I believe in feeling our real feelings, not stuffing them down. But I also believe in preaching to myself the truth that I need to survive.
So here's my sermon:
Did Jesus not promise us trials in this world?
Did he not say that He overcame them?
Did he not promise His presence with us?
Did Paul, James and the author of Hebrews not promise us that trials and difficulties are what produce in us spiritual growth and character?
And did Jesus not tell us not to worry about tomorrow, because each day has enough worry for itself?
These are real promises that are supposed to hold up in the real world, in real crisis. We have to cling to them with our fingernails. We have to lash ourselves to the mast of this truth as the ship goes into the storm. We have to get the heck of Facebook where we have been endlessly debating, freaking out, worrying, and catastrophizing to each other!
My dearests, my kids are suffering, as I'm sure yours are. But I believe that my God is big enough to turn that suffering into good. I declare over my daughters not lasting trauma from this Covid-19 trial. I claim resilience and personal growth for them. I claim God's favor over them. I also claim God's power for me: the ability to endure as their mother, to adapt to whatever happens. I won't do it perfectly. Some days we will cry and be frustrated. But we will be okay.
My mentor reminded me to give to Cesar what is Cesar's, and then get on with your life, working for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said that, beloveds, and his Cesar was at least as dysfunctional as ours. Don't be like Israel of old, chanting for a King to save you when God has offered to be yours. Practically, here's what that looks like for me: I take the school district survey and register my opinion. I'll vote in the election. I'll listen to NPR about once a week. I'll wear my mask. I'll worship in my living room until my church opens up. And I'll do my job as a mama, providing comfort, wisdom, fun, chores, and learning opportunities. I'll be a good, adult partner to my husband. I'll love my neighbors from six feet away. And I'll go to bed every night and then do it again the next day.
Beloveds, here's what James says: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Your God is mighty to save. Trust him. He is working things out for your good.