Sometime during the first few days of the pandemic my daughter ask me whether or not I thought things would be ok. I remember we were sitting on the balcony of a beach condo during Spring Break and we didn’t yet realize just how drastically our world was changing. Everything looked normal at the moment. Everything seemed normal. Except for the hand sanitizer everywhere. And an eery foreboding.
I answered that I thought we would all be okay but that no one alive had ever been through anything like this before so we had no point of reference. We were all foreigners to this territory of virus. It was surreal those first few days before reality set in. I vaguely remember there had been some warning, some news of what was going on across the world, some discussion of how to prepare but until that weekend I hadn’t considered its probably personal impact. We were able to fool ourselves those first few days while we were at the beach. We could pretend that all was well and nothing had changed. But once we got back home and schools were closed and churches were closed and businesses were closed it begin to set in.
I think with any big, world changing event, it must take a minute to move through the dawning; to grasp that everything is changing. I’m sure the morning that Pearl Harbor was attacked catapulting the United States into World War II was one of those moments. I know the morning of 9/11/2001 was.
Recently I watched a documentary on The Dirty Thirties, or the Dust Bowl as it is better known, which has been said to be one of the worst, if not the worst, environmental disasters of this country to date. It was result of a perfect storm: the stock market crash throwing the country into financial chaos, combined with changing weather patterns of drought and heat, and overly aggressive and irresponsible farming practices. It serves as warning of what can happen when humans greedily try to dominate and control nature instead of respecting and collaborating with it. This ten year distaster took place in the breadbasket of the country. The gut, if you will. And, I’ve learned from experience that if your gut ain’t happy your body aint happy.
I can imagine that for people living in the area at that time, the plains that extend in the midsection of the country from Canada down to Texas, there had to be some initial confusion and even denial of what was happening. How could things change so drastically, so quickly. I’m sure they were hoping it was a quick bump in the road. I wonder, were they prepared? How do you prepare for something like that. Buy toilet paper like we did in the pandemic. (And, seriously, what was that about. Trying to control the sh#t going on?)
Bleak. That’s all I can think of. No hope.
And yet, I’ve heard and read about brave women (and men too), strong women who stood steady when they had every reason to shrink. The women of the Dust Bowl. Women who swept the dust off of the floors and out of their houses, knowing it would return the next black blizzard that came around. Women who covered the windows with wet cloths in an effort to keep the dust out, each and every storm. The women who nursed their children through the pneumonia that resulted from inhaling so much dirt, and buried more than a few. The heartbreak they must have suffered in the most cruel of circumstances. And yet, every day these women prepared meals for their families, with whatever little food might be left. Women who stood up to their fears. Stood up in the face of fatigue. Stood up in the face of uncertainty that these dark days would ever brighten. They must have felt like the world was coming to an end. Did they feel that God had forgotten them?
What must it take to stand firm in hope in the relentless face of uncertainty and pain . How does one keep the fear and struggle from destroying the soul?
Jesus knew a bit about storms brewing. And what it takes to get through them.
Aas a part of trying to prepare them for what was to come, Jesus told the disciples about some awful things that were coming down the pike. His death.War, famine, the temple being destroyed. He was trying to get them to see the reality before them in hopes that they would also know the strength available to them and would not be dismayed or swayed from persevering in their mission. He knew that the disciples, like us, are prone to distraction and denial. And fear.
Instead of cowering or hiding, or scrambling, he encouraged the disciples, as we are encouraged today, to stand up and perceive both the danger and hope.
Terrible things did happen. Jesus was killed. Many of the disciples were also persecuted. And many were scattered. The temple was destroyed. And since then terrible things have continued to happen both to the faithful and the faithless.
Jesus was right in his warning. And, also right in his promise. There was resurrection. Death did not win. The presence of Jesus the person becomes the presence of Love let loose in the world, a love that no travail or turmoil can kill or destroy. But we have to be willing to stand in the face of it all and look up, grow in our perpsective for hope. Love is right there in the midst.
After a dust storm the sky is fresh with a blue that is almost beyond description. There is clarity and out there on the plains one can see for miles. Maybe that was something that kept those fierce Dust Bowl women steadfast. They could see the promise of hope. And, sure enough, the rains did come again. There are also many accounts of people helping people throughout the difficult years there on the plains. People sharing what little they had. People gathering together to mourn their losses and give thanks for their blessings. People standing up and raising their heads in hope, trusting redemption was near.
I don’t know what storms you are facing. I do know that the love of God, this love that Jesus embodied is watching over you today. Ready to carry you through any challenge you may face.