It’s quiet here. This is the first time in my life that I have been really and truly alone, accompanied by the ticking of an analog clock, whatever words I deem to utter out loud and the low notes of a passing train. My father is an essential worker who is keeping his distance, wary of the infection he could potentially hand off to me. My mother is but an hour away, sheltering in place with her own mother, who is eighty-seven years old and dares not to venture outside for groceries or mail. At home, it’s just me and whoever I invite to participate in my life from afar.
As much as I miss the sensation that I have somewhere to be each morning and the knowledge that my housemates will return home each afternoon, there has been a greater shift amidst the chaos to which I have yet to grow accustomed. I am a person of deep religious conviction, but fear that God has been sent packing in the midst of this pandemic. My existence is limited to a broom-closet-corner of the world, crammed full of cans of worries, jars of doubt and an overwhelming sense of dread. There is seemingly no room here for God to lay down even a sleeping bag—a shoddy offering for the Creator of all things known and unknown, seen and unseen. Maybe he sensed that there is not enough room in my now-little life for someone who is infinitely and abundantly good, whose very presence is love and from whose mouth springs forth new life. Maybe he just needed some space and took off in search of blue skies and better quarantine snacks.
I know that God isn’t really gone. After all, he isn’t very picky about accommodations. Whether you open your whole self to his presence or can only set aside a shelf in the medicine cabinet of your heart, he will abide with you nevertheless. Jesus Christ was born in a manger and died on a cross because that was all the world was willing and able to give to its savior.
Despite that knowledge, it has become harder than ever for me to seek God. Where I once saw him in the faces of my loved ones and felt his grace as the lake breeze turned warm, I see only my tired reflection in the mirror and feel heat streaming from the vents on cold nights. Most days, I rise in the morning, take no more than 2000 steps as part of my daily activities and return to bed without even a whisper of the divine.
There is a military cemetery no more than one hundred paces outside my front door, and in it a great hill from which I sometimes like to watch the sun set over the city. I left the house around dusk a few nights ago to sit in the grass and watch the skyline disappear from sight. After growing restless, I continued down the hill into the far reaches of the cemetery that overlook the highway. On a plot of land without any graves at all, there stands a statue of Jesus, his back turned and empty hands reaching out. Raised in a strictly Protestant tradition, religious imagery played little to no role in my spiritual upbringing, but never before had I felt so alone, and here before me stood the man I had been looking for, rendered in white and bathed in the last rays of the setting sun.
“Where have you been?” I wanted to ask, as though confronting a house cat that had slipped out the back door and returned weeks later, unperturbed. Instead, I walked to the front of the statue and sat down. Neither of us said a word. The sun slipped below the horizon and I wandered back over the hill, gravel crunching underneath my feet as I found my way home. It kind of felt like Jesus came back with me, but I don’t suppose he ever really left.
It’s quiet here, but I am learning to seek God in the silence. Seek God in your anger, your fears and your sadness. Seek him in your doubt if that is all that you have. Above all else, rest in the knowledge that God has not left you, nor will he ever. He is in our midst, even now that we have been scattered and isolated; even as pandemic rips through the population and loneliness spreads like disease through our communities. Know that the maker of all good things will abide with you in the junk drawer just as he would if the sky were yours and you offered to him all that lay beneath it. As said Christ in the Gospel of Matthew, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
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