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Where've you been, God?

I haven't written for a few weeks while my computer was being repaired. I knew that the anti-virus software that was on the computer was expired, but I didn't know that the backup I had wouldn't run as long as the primary was still installed. Poor sick computer. If you knew this, please don't strain yourself rolling your eyes! If you didn't know this you might want to tuck this little nugget of information away, and you can never say you didn't learn something valuable from reading this blog!

I'm surprised that getting out of the rhythm of writing is hard to get back. I've spent a few days knowing that I need to write something, but it hasn't been easy figuring out what I want to write about.

This weekend has been the first anniversary of the COVID lockdowns. What a year it has been. One year ago Jay and I went to the grocery store to stock up - who could have known we wouldn't be able to get toilet paper for weeks? I ordered some from Amazon that was apparently really and truly on a slow boat from China, because as I tracked the package it was coming from China and didn't arrive for about 3 months.

I spent the Saturday of that weekend making masks for us to wear when we had to go out - we couldn't buy those anywhere either because the hospitals and frontline workers needed them. Remember when we used to talk about first responders instead of frontline workers?

It was a year ago this weekend that Jeff was quarantined in their basement because he had responded to a call for a man who had been traveling and got really sick and died. We thought the man would be tested, but tests were scarce and because he had died he was never tested. So Jeff slept in the basement and ate dinner at the bottom of the steps because Vianne was due to have a baby any week.

We frantically quarantined ourselves because I was to go and help when the baby came - I even asked Julia and Ben to not see each other until after the baby was born. That was a really hard conversation to have! Parker arrived safely, and Jeff was able to be with Vianne during her labor and delivery, but no one was able to visit in the hospital. Her family didn't meet Parker in person until he was several weeks old. Being a new mom is hard enough, but she couldn't visit with her friends or family. Her support came from Jeff and me - and I was delighted to offer it, but I know it wasn't the same. And imagine being a new mom and scrambling for toilet paper.

Our government refused to take the advice of scientists and medical professionals. It would have been so much easier to have good solid advice - even if that advice had to be corrected later. But some said wear masks and some said don't wear masks. Some said stay home and some screamed about the economy and said go out.

Some people really suffered with the staying home. Our daughter lives with us but she is an adult and so is able to monitor her own time. She was already learning on line long before the pandemic hit. We are retired and both have pensions, so didn't have to worry about loss of income, although we did lose a little. All of us are pretty introverted so staying away from people wasn't too hard on us. We know that many others were not so lucky.

Then George Floyd died at the hands of police - murdered might be more accurate, but Derek Chauvin's trial is still in the jury selection phase. We were already grieving the deaths of Ahmad Arbery and Breonna Taylor (and so.many.others, but those are the ones that were current at the time) - the anniversary of her death was also this weekend, and the unjust death of one more black man at the hands of police was too much for us to bear. Protests occurred in many cities and the Senate condemned the "riots" while they refused to act. "Standing with police" became a counterpoint but missed the point entirely - we have always stood with police but not until recently with the black members of our society who were lynched. This felt like another lynching, and I am a white woman who is very secure.

Election season was trying and traumatic as we continued to protest the way people in our society - women, African Americans, immigrants, and Asians who are now being blamed for the pandemic - are treated. All of the screaming about fraud and voter suppression took its toll, too. I was (and am) afraid for our democracy.

I began to feel that so many institutions that I grew up trusting - our government, the church, my country - are unrecognizable. Maybe because blinders have come off and I realize that we are not the beacon of light that we claim to be, and that institutions that I value have been complicit in racism.

And then the insurrection of January 6 and the events afterwards - I don't even know what to say, except that the revisionsists who are whining about "cancel culture" need to have a close look in the mirror.

After a year of trauma, I seem to be breathing a little easier. Julia and Jeff have gotten their shots and hopefully Jay, Vianne and I will be able to get ours soon. I remember when "boots on the ground" seemed like an interesting way of describing troops, and then it became a cliche. "Shots in arms" is sort of the same thing, to me - I'm tired of the phrase but as more and more people get vaccinated maybe we can stop saying that so much.

We have a new administration in the White House and I feel like good things are happening.

It doesn't hurt that spring starts next week, and the sun has been shining, at least where I live.

Now I look back at the year that has been and I wonder: Where was God all that time?

How could this happen? How could over 500,000 Americans be dead of the virus? How can so many families be grieving? How can people of color STILL be so insecure? How can racism be so acceptable again? There is talk of a return to a Jim Crow-like society, and I understand why.

Here is what I know. God never promised that bad things wouldn't happen. We, the people, screwed up - badly and continuously - and the horror of the last year may very well be our fault. It was our choice in 2016 to elect an administration that was racist and misogynistic. It was our choice not to wear masks and to disbelieve scientists. It was the choice of some people to foment rebellion. It is our choice not to explore our systems, institutions and very selves for sources of outdated patriarchy and racism.

Even Jesus, as he hung on the cross, felt that God was somewhere else. In his agony he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46). God, of course, had not abandoned Jesus - God was right there, suffering with and through Jesus' human body. God has suffered with us this year, too, and has fulfilled God's promise to never leave us (Deuteronomy 36:8, and many others - search "forsake").

I have seen God in the people who have continued to work at the grocery store, who are always cheerful. I have seen God in the healthcare workers, who I have not encountered but I know how exhausted they must be. I see God in my healthy, thriving grandson. God was in the labs with the people developing not one but several effective vaccines. God comforts the families of those who have died of the virus, and God provides hope for a better world for those suffering from violence and oppression. God has been with the people writing and reading books about anti-racism, and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and God is using these times to open our eyes and hearts.

I prayed hard that the election results would turn out the way they did, and I know there were plenty of others who prayed the other way. Was God present in those voting booths? I'm not sure whether God intervenes in elections, but I know that God uses everything for good. Perhaps the last administration was necessary to rip the blindfolds from our eyes and expose the work that must still be done. I don't know - I do know that the U.S. Government is not ordained by God.

We have a long way to go yet to get over this pandemic. Our country has a lot of healing to do. We aren't out of the woods yet, but God is with us. God comforts us in our grief. God forgives us our sins. God will work with us to restore what has been lost, and to repair what is broken.

There is much good in the world. I pray that God will help us protect, nurture, and sustain what is good, and to recognize and root out what is evil.

God bless us - God bless YOU - as we continue to navigate our way forward through all of this. Please remember that God never promised bad things wouldn't happen - even Jesus suffered unspeakably as he hung on that cross. God DID promise to never forsake us, and to always love us. I am holding tight to those promises and hope you will, too.

If you, like me, feel a need to DO something, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Pray - for our world, our country, your community, your family, for those who grieve, for those who need healing, for those who are afraid - and for anyone else you think of. Pray for God's grace to restore justice and to heal us.

  2. Write to your elected officials to speak out against the racist rhetoric that is being voiced by the Republican party.

  3. Write another letter to your elected officials opposing laws increasing voter restrictions.

  4. Support, financially or with your feet, an organization that is working to restore justice and uplift those who are struggling. Here are a few that I know of:

    1. Black Lives Matter:

    2. National Congress of American Indians: Home | NCAI

    3. Your local food bank, homeless shelter, or clothing closet

There are so many ways to get involved - pick one or some that are right for you.

Here are some books I've read recently on justice issues. I recommend all of them, and there are many more on my to-read list

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. I just finished this last night - excellent!

One Coin Found: How God's Love Stretches to the Margins by Emmy Kegler

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

Who Will Be a Witness? Igniting Activism for God's Justice, Love and Deliverance by Drew G.I Hart

Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeffrey Chu

And here is one more recommendation if you are physically, spiritually, emotionally exhausted:

Burnout: the Secrets to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagasaki and Amelia Nagasaki. Specifically for women, but the book has lots of information that would be really good for burned out men to have, too.

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