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Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: The lifeline of accepting my place as a clay jar

Lynne Baab • Saturday April 4 2020

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: The lifeline of accepting my place as a clay jar

I am continuing to write about what I’m learning from being at home almost all the time. I’ve changed a phase in the title of this series of posts from “self-isolation” to “sheltering in place.” “Isolation” is not really the right word because I still feel very connected to many of the people I care about through phone calls, zoom sessions, email and social media. Praise God for the technology to stay connected. I pray that God will give us all the initiative to reach out to people so we are not isolated.

The other night I had a vivid dream with a clear message from God. In the dream, my husband Dave and I had two houseguests, people very dear to us, and they wanted pancakes for breakfast. I assembled all the ingredients, got into our car, and drove to a telephone booth. I got the ingredients out of the car and as I approached the pay phone, I realized this was the wrong place to cook pancakes.

When I got back home, our guests had left. Dave told me they had gotten a call about a family emergency. I stood there bereft, longing to see them. I realized I had wasted time driving to the pay phone when I could have been talking to them.

Dave and I are one month into pretty strict  physical isolation because he has a chronic lung disease. We started earlier than most people, and what a month of intense and varied emotions it has been. When I woke up after dreaming, God seemed to be saying to me that I’m trying to organize and plan my way through a situation that simply has to be lived with. My trying to plan is as effective as trying to cook pancakes at a telephone booth.

My husband has been studying 2 Corinthians. God’s voice in my dream parallels 2 Corinthians 4:6-10, a passage we talked about a few days before my dream:

“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

The treasure in the clay jar is the Gospel – “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” I am a clay jar, an ordinary container for everyday use, holding something amazing. Every time I try to be in charge of my life, as I have tried too often in the past month, I am as effective as someone trying to cook pancakes in a phone booth. In the dream, I missed out on time with friends. The light God gives us through the Gospel is profoundly relational. In this strange and challenging time, what matters is time with family members and friends: Jesus our friend; the people we live with; others we can contact by phone, skype, zoom, facetime, email, and social media; and those we can pray for.

We’ve set up our back deck, which is about 12 feet square, with a chair in each corner. Friends who buy us groceries stay and chat, bundled up against the cold spring wind. A couple of friends from church have stopped by, expecting we would stand six feet apart on the sidewalk, but we could invite them into our back yard to sit, shiver and chat for a few minutes.

The Apostle Paul uses language I relate to. He says he is afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair. Every part of my being resists being afflicted and perplexed. I want to run off to phone booths to escape those feelings. Instead, Paul affirms that, in some strange and challenging way, we have to be willing to carry in our body the death of Jesus in order to experience his life in us. This is really hard. Covid-19 has given us a powerful chance to learn how to do it better, to hold onto the lifeline of being a clay jar filled with something amazing, to hold onto the lifeline of being relationally connected to God and people while being physically isolated from them.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your companionship in these bizarre times. Help us to see the ways you are keeping us from being crushed and driven to despair. Enable us to experience your presence with us. Teach us more about how to be your disciples. Help us to enter into your death so we can experience your life. Help us to shine your light into the world. Help us to love people physically close and physically distant from us.

Next post: the lifeline of memories – Palm Sunday on the Mount of Olives. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below. I love getting new subscribers.

This time of sheltering in place is a great time to think about what home means to you. Here are two posts where I talk about some significant changes in the way I think about home.

If you'd like to go back to my first post about spiritual lessons from sheltering in place, and read the posts in order, the first post is here.

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