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Spiritual diary of self-isolation: the lifeline of God’s constancy

Lynne Baab • Wednesday April 1 2020

Spiritual diary of self-isolation: the lifeline of God’s constancy

In this strange, unsettled, constantly-changing time, Psalm 130 gives us a beautiful reminder of God’s constancy and God’s invitation for us to bring everything in us into God’s presence.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications! (verses 1 and 2)

I don’t know about you, but my rate of crying out to God has dramatically increased in the past month. It is right and good to do that. We are not the first people to be bewildered and scared about what’s going on. We must not criticize ourselves for feeling such a myriad of challenging emotions, and we can accept God’s invitation to God with them.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered. (verses 3 and 4)

In the midst of all the varied and understandable emotions, there may also be some sin. The form of sin varies from one person to the next. For me, most recently, I can see that I stopped trusting and hoping in God – I have been feeling like this self-isolation will last forever. Because of the despair that comes from hopelessness, for a few days I stopped praying for others with greater needs than mine. I believe this self-absorption and self-pity is sin.

Only God can reveal to each of us if we need to repent of anything, and God invites us to come over and over to receive forgiveness. God forgives us and helps us turn toward Jesus and receive the empowerment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. A pandemic doesn’t change this fundamental, changeless attribute of God. A pandemic doesn’t change our need for forgiveness.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning. (verses 5 and 6)

I love the power of the metaphor here. Have you ever had to stay awake all night doing something you weren’t excited about? It feels like morning will never come. In one of my young adult summers in Tacoma, Washington, I bussed tables in a pancake restaurant from 10 pm to 6 am. Those shifts felt endless. When I walked out to my car, with the early morning light hitting Mount Rainier, I felt like I had escaped, one more time, from prison into peace, beauty and joy. This pandemic feels like a really long night shift working at a job we never would have chosen, so we wait for the Lord and place our hope in his word. God's constancy is more solid than Mount Rainier. God's constancy is one of our lfelines.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. (verses 7 and 8)

Some translations for verse 5 say “put your hope in the Lord,” which conveys an active choice. One task for the pandemic is to look at our lives and see all the practices and habits that have helped us in the past to put our hope in God. And then embrace as many of them as we can.

God of hope, we need your help to discern how to put our hope in you in this very strange time. We need your help to wait on you with patience, fortitude and love. In this new reality, we need your wisdom to discern which of the counter-productive things we do are sin – for which we can receive forgiveness – and which are simply our own blundering as we try to find new patterns of how to live. Out of the depths we cry to you. Oh Lord, hear our cry for your mercy.

Next post: a lifeline revealed by a dream where God spoke to me. Illustration by Dave Baab: Mount Rainier from Seward Park in Seattle. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.

Some previous posts that are relevant in these challenging times:

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