Stacie Mickelson is our guest blogger this week. She is the Director of Applied Research & Consulting at the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC). She lives in an intentional Christian community in JP with her super patient and handsome husband Elijah and their two wonderful albeit cooped up daughters, Eden Gale and Anna James. Today, Stacie offers an honest reflection on how we can stay prayerfully present admist the challenges of the coronavirus.
Two weeks ago, I had plans with a friend: eat fried food and go bargain hunting at Goodwill. I’d been looking forward to it. But when the day came, so had the coronavirus, so we had to rethink our plans. I sent her a text:
In times of chaos and duress, we experience a variety of bodily responses across the flight-fight-freeze spectrum. Because of the palpable layer of unrest that pervades the atmosphere right now, we have ample opportunity to observe our stress responses.
Right now, some of us feel energized, some of us feel paralyzed, and many of us are not quite sure what we feel. My defense mechanisms rely on a healthy dose of denial, especially related to my own emotions.
“I don’t feel stressed per se,” was categorically untrue. I just didn’t—or didn’t want to—realize it. Three days after that text exchange. I sent out a staff-wide email to all my colleagues at the Emmanuel Gospel Center. I wrote:
“…I want to remind us all that our first job right now is that as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You have been created, set apart and equipped for just a time as this. Let faith arise. Let’s not confuse our preparation exercises with our assignment. That is, we should expect the Lord to be giving us specific and targeted instructions about how to focus our time and our energy right now… Work will need to get done, projects will move forward, meetings will happen. We still have our jobs to do, but how we prioritize our to-do lists needs a drastic re-evaluation. I encourage everyone to take time, lots of it, to be praying and in the word like never before. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the top few things he wants you to focus on in the next few days or weeks…”
In an endeavor to take my own advice, I sought the Lord: Father, what are you asking of me right now? How should I be prioritizing my time? What might you be speaking to me?
All I heard in reply was, Be present.
That response felt a bit underwhelming to me. But I wanted to be obedient, so I acted on it the best I knew how. I gave myself limits on how much social media I could take in. I tried my best to concentrate on one thing at a time and not multi-task. I made a color-coded master schedule (that I never used) so I could try to balance working from home with watching our two young daughters.
The problem is that I had interpreted “be present” as instructions for behaving better, rather than an invitation to be honestly present to my own feelings before the Father. And God always calls us into being before He calls us into doing.
My “be present” to-do list was just my grasp at maintaining some sense of control. Doing so was a faith facsimile. I was using the language of faith to obfuscate the places where I felt afraid and sad.
At the turn of the new year, many of us were asking God for “20/20 vision in 2020.” The global crisis upon us is shaking every system of the world—every nation, every organization, every individual. Injustice and inequity are magnified. The real condition of our souls is highlighted. Like never before in our lifetimes, we have the opportunity to be radically present to reality.
Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, he warned his disciples of the pain and grief ahead. He also promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into all truth and empower them to live in joy. In John 16:33, Jesus then says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The other day, I wept and wept and wept. I poured out in worship everything I’d buried—everything I’d tried to exhume through denial, every ugly thing that would want to stay hidden poisoning me from the inside. I was present with the Lord. And it was beautiful.
My prayer for us all, beloved, is that together we would all be: