Read: Mark 4:35-41
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, Be still!” (Mathew 4:39, NRSV).
Sometimes my brain feels like a bug in a jar.
If I’m honest, that was true before the Coronavirus lockdown. Present circumstances seem to have exacerbated the condition, however. Something tells me you may know what I mean.
It isn’t just the physical confinement—though, goodness knows, that is part of the picture. It’s also the sense of helplessness. I feel like I ought to be able to DO SOMETHING. So I clean. I wash my hands. I scavenge the internet for news. I wash my hands. I post prayers to friends and family. I wash my hands. I write in what I’m only half-jokingly referring to as my “plague journal.” I wash my hands. I listen to the news to “keep on top of things.” I wash my hands. Every so often, I wait in line; I get groceries; I haul them home. I wash my hands.
Many of these activities really do help to combat the spread of the virus, and may even enhance my personal safety. But in recent days, I have also come to see that they are symptomatic of a desperate bid for control. I don’t like feeling helpless. So, I beat my little wings against the glass and wonder why a day of lockdown is so exhausting.
So, I have considerable sympathy for those desperate disciples when they shake Jesus awake and demand, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Evidently he does care. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he tells the wind to give it a rest. Then he stills the sea as if it were a troublesome toddler. Then, he turns to the disciples and asks, “Why are you afraid?” The Bible does not record their answer. Perhaps they were momentarily speechless. It simply says they were “filled with great awe,” and began asking each other the obvious question: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Who, indeed. The storm was not all Jesus stilled that day. He also stilled the disciples. That may have been the bigger miracle.
In the midst of this maelstrom, we often feel helpless. But we are in the care and company of One who is not helpless. We don’t know why the storm continues to rage. But it does not have to rage inside of us.
So, several times a day, I look at the picture at the top of this post. I imagine that it is Jesus, looking at me and saying, “Peace, be still.” Then I take a deep breath and wait for my miracle.
A strange thing happens when my personal storm subsides. First, I realize that “keeping on top of things” does not have to dominate my every waking moment. God’s got it. So, I turn off the news and turn on some music. Then, I press “pause” on sending prayers to all my Facebook friends, and I actually pray. Then, I resist the temptation to go out to get the thing I could probably do without, and I read a novel instead.
Then, I wash my hands. But I enjoy the feel of the water as it washes some of my fear down the drain.
- What parts of your present situation make you feel like you are in the center of a storm? How might your “lockdown life” change if your inner storm was stilled?
- Listen to Don’t Be Afraid by John L. Bell. As you listen to this simple song, open your heart to God’s promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). The words are:
Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger—my love is stronger than your fear.
Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger, and I have promised—
promised to be always near.
Note: This song also works well to for hand washing. Once through the song times out to around 25 seconds.
I weave a silence onto my lips, my mind, my heart.
Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord—keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.
A prayer by David Adam
Introduction to the Roman Roads Series
As many of you know, I am spending my sabbatical in Rome, Italy. Thanks to the coronavirus, it is turning out to be something less than a “Roman Holiday.” While a pandemic was not part of my original itinerary, it does lend a unique perspective to my writing these days. I offer these reflections along with my prayers for the health and safety of our world. May God bless and keep you all!