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UP and OVER

Strange thing what I’m about to share, because it’s just a recap of what you already know.  We share the same memory, at least a similar version of this memory. 
“Effective at midnight, San Francisco will require people to stay home…”
These were the instructions from Mayor London Breed on March 16, 2020.  

COVID-19 and shelter-in-place became household words. We all became very familiar with them. This respiratory virus had the power to end lives especially if a person had compromised health.  
Instructions echoed throughout cities, states and countries to shut down businesses, stay at home, and not go out unless it was essential.
This was a global pandemic. Never had I, nor any of us, seen this happen before.  
It all seemed surreal.
How quickly it happened.  
Information traveled at lighting speed thanks to technology. Ever-changing news of this virus, its effects, its potential devastation, and instructions on how to flatten the curve entered into our cell phones, tablets, and computers as fast as you could say “face masks.” It was hard to keep up.

Then another terrible virus arose: the virus of fear.  
Fear and anxiety emptied the store shelves. Toilet paper, sanitizer, paper towels, bottled water (don’t ask me why people needed 1,000 water bottles since the water faucets were still working), and food were getting scarce. Going grocery shopping was like preparing for war. Face masks, gloves, long sleeved shirts, sanitizer wipes. 6 feet of social distance. Long lines waiting to get into the store. Afterwards, sanitizing the goods for the second time when you got home. It was a major ordeal.
What started out as a three-week shelter-in-place, stretched to three months (at least at the time of this writing, maybe longer by the time of reading).

Some of us flourished. We learned how to do Zoom meetings, worked from home, baked bread, and enjoyed wearing the same sweats and comfy clothes all day. 
But sadly, many others succumbed to loneliness and depression. An anxious new reality shutting down what used to be dependable rhythms of life. My mother-in-law suffered from this terribly. Gratefully we were able to drive up to Oregon, bring her back to San Francisco. She stayed with us for six weeks. 
An overwhelming weariness hit many of us, myself included.

If that wasn’t enough, the horrendous death of George Floyd sparked outrage to racism and injustice between black Americans and law enforcement. Our nation was torn apart by pain and anger. Protests and rallies, voices clashed with explosions of anger and long kept silence of shame. So many voices, a cacophony of opinions. Hard efforts to listen, decipher, learn, and change. This will be a long journey of bridge building.

Another virus emerges, division.
Adding our own personal burdens to it, the weight is heavy. Even now, it can be crushing.

Where is Jesus in all of this? 
I suspect right where He always is…in the middle of it all.

Nothing escapes His attention, every virus of the heart seen. In fact, maybe He let all of this break wide open so we begin looking at our own hearts, looking for answers bigger than ourselves.

Maybe He’s allowed this enormous emotional, spiritual upheaval to hit, like an earthquake we can’t control. Titanic plates of our hearts crushing against each other, ripping the docile landscape of our lives apart, pushing boulders of pain right up into the sky. Insurmountable mountains stand before us.
Honestly, at time of this writing, looking up at these “mountains” leaves me exhausted and weary, and at times overwhelmed.  
Worry and anxiety crowd the already crowded space in my brain.
I want to fly away.

There’s a scripture that captures this feeling so well:

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,  far from the tempest and storm.
- Psalm 55:6-8

Many of us identify with that. When we are overwhelmed, we want to fly away. Run away.  Escape through our phones, computers, busyness, and sometimes, unhealthy habits.  
But running never gives us the peace we’re really seeking for.  

It’s then that I can feel God waving me over, inviting my weary soul to come.
Come. Sit. Be still. Open My Word. Flip through the pages. 
Ahh, there it is. 
His truth soothes like a calming balm over my sunburned mind, reminding me of who He is.

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, to the Rock that is HIGHER than I.
- Psalms 61:2
 

This lets me know that my heart is prone to being overwhelmed. The scripture doesn’t say “if;” it says “when.” It’s inescapable.

This verse also reminds me that the sound of my cry doesn’t bounce off the walls into oblivion. My prayers make the journey to God’s ears. In fact, He’s listening for and recognizes my sound. His love is like a huge net, catching my cry. He’s got me.

As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I’m learning to better resist the urge to make my own escape route. Instead, to run towards the Lord. Run to His Word. Let Him lead me to “the Rock that is higher than I.” Jesus is that Rock. Immovable, steady, trustworthy, and safe.  He is a Rock higher than any “mountain”—people, circumstances, or my own frailties. 

This time in our history, as overwhelming as it has been, may be a gift of mercy. A season to grow deeper. Because we can’t “run” away, we have the opportunity to run to the faithfulness of God in a way we may not have known before. Beyond these “mountains,” He leads us to Himself. And only in Him will we have the hope of beautiful vistas and vantage points of restored beauty from the Rock that is Higher than I.