Dear Church Family,
My mom often tells me that “the unknown” is my personal kryptonite.
“The unknown” is specific- it isn’t necessarily a crisis, or a new thing. Both of those can be “known quantities,” and are easier to navigate for me. I love a good crisis plan, and I love moving or doing something that requires long lists of steps. In that way, disliking the unknown is often an asset for my leadership: I’m really good at making a plan.
But the truest unknown is different. It is a void that we stare out into. It is, in so many ways, a characteristic of both everyday life and the larger conversations about life, too. Transitional times bring up big “unknown kryptonite.” I’m sure you’ve asked these questions, too. When will we move? Will I keep my job? Will I survive this illness? What will this look like a month, or a year from now? How will I go on after this person is gone? For parents and teachers this week, the questions are particularly painful and scary: how will my children go to school? Will they? Can I afford to stay home, or to keep them home? Will I, or my students get sick if we go back?
In that way, COVID-19 has been one giant unknown since day one, hasn’t it?
This week on the podcast we talked about how things have changed for us since the pandemic began. Are we still afraid of the same things? How are we coping? What good have we seen? These questions feel especially important as the pandemic has found its current epicenter in Florida. (Be sure to check out this week's podcast- there is plenty of good happening at Suntree!)
As I thought about these questions for the podcast, I realized these past few weeks are a transitional time in thinking for me as we began to turn our eyes towards the fall and our long-term planning. We wrote in our planning notes in March and April and May- surely we will be back by Easter, Pentecost, July 1st! Surely we will be done with this by the end of July. Yet, here we are. We are still living in a world indelibly changed by COVID. It is scary, and it is unknown. We can no longer expect to duck under the wave and avoid this season.
This week in Genesis, we continue to explore the character of Jacob. You see, Jacob’s story is not unlike our own. For many chapters in Genesis, Jacob is on the run, fleeing what has come before and afraid of what comes next. He has slept in the desert with a rock as a pillow. He has fled Esau’s threats. This week, we read that he wrestles God. This symbolizes for so many the closeness with which God comes to us, even in the midst of our fear and fleeing.
Yet even in all of Jacob’s unknown, he is paying attention. He encounters God again and again out on the run, as he makes crisis plan after crisis plan. He marvels at God’s presence. He wrestles with God in his anger and unknowns, and he comes away a changed man. For Jacob, this week marks a change in thinking, a transition towards reconciliation and his true calling. He is ready to set out into the unknown because he has wrestled with an ever-present God.
You may be ready to throw in the COVID towel. Me, too. You may be tired, afraid, cranky, or just plain sad. Me, too. But as we read Genesis this week, we hear God’s call to marvel at the ways the Lord is surely in our lives. We hear that God has always been the God who would come close enough to us to wrestle with our doubts and fears, and to walk with us in our deserts. While God’s truest character is fulfilled in Jesus, it is this moment in the Old Testament that seals God’s intimate character for me.
The hope that I have as my thinking transitions to “long term coping,” instead of “crisis coping,” is that God is unafraid of my big emotions. God is showing up, drawing near, getting into the ring with me even when I don’t feel worthy or ready. God has never left our sides, but draws intimately near in all of our change and transition.
Surely, the Lord is in this place.
Surely, the Lord is in the unknown.
We are not alone.
Be safe, Pastor Allee