Faith Under Siege

My faith is under attack. While COVID-19 pummels the body, my soul feels under siege. My ability to trust strains under the load of all the things I do not know. 

Some days, some hours are better than others.

I rejoice in the many occurrences of the best of human nature. People respecting the two-meter circumference, picking up groceries and “checking in” augments the sacrificial work being done not only by medical personnel and first responders. When I am on a roll, with a faint Disney-like soundtrack playing in the background, I imagine a world in which we emerge kinder, more patient, grateful for the many blessings of family and friends. Hugs and kisses will abound; laughter will fill the air and exploration of the new world will become an adventure. Pumpkin pie, Nanaimo bars and pizza will be healthy side-dishes. 

I prefer this version.

On other days, the disinformation campaigns being waged by China, Russia and the US to deflect responsibility come close to achieving their goal.

The sandstorm of disguised information makes it difficult to know what, if anything, to believe. 

Or, do I take the next step these campaigns promote and conclude that the world swirls in such chaos that the only thing that can save us is an authoritarian, “strong” leader? 

On this Palm Sunday, the biblical story pictures masses gathered to lay down a bed of palms for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, a poor man’s version of a general’s triumphant return from war. Hail the Victor, the Liberator, the Saviour!

The traditional understanding is that crowds assembled to welcome Jesus because they desperately yearned to escape the life-strangling severity of Roman occupation - “a crucifixion a day keeps rebellion away.” No one can deny the seriousness of oppression, except perhaps the oppressors.

I wonder, though, if many gathered not because they expected a rebellion but simply to experience the presence Jesus would bring to the present and a possible future. Did they really hope for a radical new reality by the end of the week? Or were they looking to discern what kind of person this donkey riding “king” might be?

The future is now more clouded than I confidently assumed three weeks ago.

Once the pandemic has eased, our new normal - whatever it might be - may take three, four or even five years to become established. I look forward to freedom from fear, the ability to move without restraint, curfew or documentation, to greet my neighbour and hug my grandchildren. I would prefer the current trajectory of my life with some small tweaking, a few extra benefits for myself and the poor.

But the future may not play according to my script.

So perhaps my place may more naturally be among those in the Palm Sunday crowd who care not so much for a crystal ball vision but for hope beyond slogans and hints about how to live before a not-yet-formed new reality.

During my better moments, I give thanks for my relationships, value the time with my wife, set aside time to list that for which I am grateful,  learn something, sample the little Hershey Easter eggies, write a bit and offer prayers for those in danger.

I try to remember that we are not the first people to experience dramatic disruption to our lives from outside forces. The history of the last two centuries records too many heart-wrenching episodes.

The Scriptures overflow with examples. I am reassured that the texts document confusion, anger, fear, lamentation and even a deep sense of abandonment during times of massive disruption. And hope.

Looking in the rearview mirror, the witness emerges that even in the desert wanderings or foreign lands, a Presence, a Power the people named as God, was still somehow with them and at work.

Often this awareness took a while to see because eyes, ears and hearts were not yet tuned to the different frequency of God present.

I’m working on choosing hope.

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