This Sunday morning, my pastor opened our church service with a prayer. “God, I pray that you will take the things we believe in light and vaporous ways, and lead us to believe them truly and deeply.”
I’ve already been thinking a lot about the assurance I sometimes need to continue believing things that I should believe deeply. This comes to light especially in my long distance relationship. In the throes of wedding planning, my fiance Josh and I have been writing fewer heartfelt letters and more text messages like “do we want garlic green beans or mushroom green beans?” and “did you check the spreadsheet?”
Despite knowing that Josh was certain enough of his love to get down on one knee, I’ve found myself doubting it all when our weekly video chats feel more like business meetings, or our conversation ends with an unresolved disagreement about finances. Josh is comfortable with this kind of conflict; I am not. Despite his care and assurances, it took a face-to-face visit last month for me to refresh my confidence in our relationship after weeks of wedding stress.
I am trying to unlearn this insecurity, but its roots go deep. For a child in a stable family, I was unusually sensitive, able to convince myself at five years old that even the gentlest of scoldings meant I was unloved. I’m better after years of growth, but still find myself slow to believe in someone’s love and quick to believe in their indifference or dislike. After a clash with a roommate, a mistake at work, an apology when I hurt someone, I struggle to believe that I’m worthy of care. I pray for this belief to a God whose love of me I often doubt.
When my pastor prayed about believing things truly and deeply, he was praying to a congregation watching from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was referring to our belief that the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven stands today just as it did two thousand years ago. He was praying that we’d have assurance of where we stand as Christ’s beloved children, belief in the strength of our bonds, belief that caring for the needy among us is worth any risk to our health.
In this time of mandatory physical distancing, we need this assurance more than ever. The assurance that the people we love love us back even when we can’t be physically together. Assurance that we exist in community and can provide for each other. Assurance that God’s perfect love casts out fear.
Instead of going to my church building for Sunday service, I had an early breakfast with my small group. We talked about checking in on our neighbors to see if they need groceries. We sat around the TV to participate in our church’s livestreamed service. We sang from the couch that in Christ alone, our hope is found; on Christ the solid rock we stand; the Lord is a present help in times of trial. It felt like a house church from the days of early Christianity.
I am the only young, unmarried person in the group, and our leader told me twice to let him know if I have any needs during this time. We prayed for each other as we do every week, but this time it felt different, like the distance the prayers travel to reach the Lord was shorter than usual.
My pastor quoted C.S. Lewis in his sermon: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In this time of uncertainty and fear, I hope that we can be roused to the ways that we are God’s hands to care for those around us, and that we can believe intrinsically in his provision to us and through us.
I’m reminded of the small-town church I grew up in. Every week after the sermon, all one hundred of us would hold hands and sing, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together with love.” Even if we as the church can’t reach for each other’s hands right now, we are reaching out in other ways.
My next visit with Josh is cancelled because of the virus, so I will continue practicing belief in our love while we’re apart. I don’t know when I can next see my brother, my sister, or my mom, but we’re staying in close contact. I will try to write more letters to show my care. I will try to pray more in the newfound free time. I will check in on those who might need extra help during this pandemic. I will give and receive that blessed assurance.
Laura graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in art and writing. She currently lives in Madison, WI, sharing a house with two other Calvin grads. She works as a software support analyst for the State of Wisconsin court system and enjoys painting, rock climbing, biking downtown, and walking her dog.