You are not in control!
- Posted on May 20, 2020
Dear Emmanuel Community: Our fourth truth of life in the world is this: You are not in control! We know this for a fact these days. However, our consoling message from Scripture is from Luke 12:24-26
Consider the ravens, they neither toil nor reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your space of life? If then you are not able to do so small as thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?
This mid-week NOVA, we have a thoughtful meditation by our own Lynn Getty. She has garnered strength and wisdom from her great-grandmother Grace Amelia Tipton. I think, in these times we are now living, we all have remembered our beloved patriarchs and matriarchs and their wisdom. This Sunday, I likewise will preach on some training in being anxious as well as wisdom from my ancestors for these days.
There is so little we can control. Emmanuel’s leadership is working hard to discern our way forward as we await instructions from our Governor and our Bishop about a careful re-opening of our worship and church activities. We are awaiting Belt Construction beginning renovation of our Washington Street wall by the end of May—but of course, we and they are at the mercy of the weather. Our financial leadership is weighing all our options for operating and capital needs. In the next couple of weeks, there will be much more information to share with you on all these things—both in our NOVAs and a written newsletter.
For now, I continue to hold to the wisdom that God will provide the ways and means for each day and the way forward. I look forward to seeing you face to face in God’s time.
With Eastertide blessings and love,
Grace Via Grace
A reflection by Lynn Getty
May 10, 2020
Several weeks ago I was startled when Rev Martha asked me to write an essay on “control”. She knows me well. I realized immediately that this was a pastoral assignment especially designed for me. I do appreciate Rev Martha’s loving care which allowed me the deep dive into trusting God.
The need to control has been a part of me since my childhood. Perhaps this is the result of having experienced several family tragedies when very young. Perhaps it is just a part of my DNA. I reflect on this facet of my personality and attempt to polish and reshape it periodically. I am fond of the mantra “Let go, Let God!” It helps me to recalibrate.
I have a sweet reminder of this personality predisposition on a scrap of yellowing paper which I have kept for over sixty years. My beloved great grandmother, Grace Amelia Tipton, placed this handwritten note into my hand as we were departing from a visit when I was a child. It read,
” Worry is the interest paid on trouble borrowed from tomorrow.”
I did not completely understand its meaning then as I read it in the backseat of our family car. But this note in her handwriting has become one of my life’s treasures. Over these many years I have grown to understand that the note, pressed into my young hand was a gift of love. It was an attempt at guidance, a spark of wisdom. It was an attempt to gently move me to a place of not needing to worry so much. It was an attempt to move me out of myself and recognize the help which I sought already surrounded me. It was the beginning of my attempt to trust the unseen, the beginnings of faith. It was a push toward letting go and walking securely into a spiritual awareness. I must return to this note again and again to remind myself to rest in God’s presence. It conjures up the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well.”
But how do we manage to not worry when faced with a 100-year pandemic event? What is left in today’s reality that we can control in this era of the ominous and mysterious virus? To personally manage getting through this period of “sheltering in place” I have tried to keep myself on a schedule. Each day has a list of things to accomplish. This directed approach prevents me from dwelling on the grim state of our world too much. The plotting of the day which moves from one activity to the next feels safe. Call it operation avoidance. No one actually cares if I get two projects completed each day or do nothing at all. No one has been inside our house since late February except for Mike and me. I safely control this little aspect of my life by keeping my mind occupied and my person barricaded from the unpleasantness.
But while operating in high avoidance mode and completely ignoring the “Let go, Let God” mantra I am handed this writing assignment. And the passage from Luke leaps into my mind:
“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke 12: 24-27
Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace. Fear does not stop death. It stops life. Worry is that “interest paid” in my dear great grandmother’s note. It removes us from the here and now and pins our hopes on tomorrow. It turns our efforts to create ideas to rigidly control a future. We are often disappointed by the outcome. But our Lord makes it very clear. Our worry can not change our world. All we really have is “This Day” and “It is Enough.” If we hand over our need to control to God we can grow into participating in His Mystery. It really is about confronting and facing our fears and hurts and placing them in God’s hands.
Control as it turns out is rigid by nature and is fueled often by anxiety. It can bind us into a small isolated space which makes it actually harder to cope and definitely prevents anything as healing as the Holy Spirit from getting a chance to flow through our souls.
Father Richard Rohr says,
“People who are connected to God, our life Source, do not need to steer their own lives and agenda. They know that it is being done for them in a much better way than they ever could.”
“We must be handed over to God from our power, privilege and need for control. Otherwise, we will never grow up, or participate in the Mystery of God and Love. It really is about “passing over” to a deeper faith and life.”
This is such a beautiful Easter season message.
I stumbled upon another wonderful realignment message, one that assures us of the security of God’s unceasing presence. An approach to facing the difficulties and grief during this time of Covid-19 was beautifully offered in a statement released by the joint dioceses of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. recently. It read:
“People of faith are not immune to human suffering, nor are we spared anxiety or grief. What we can do, and are doing, is to draw upon the deepest wells of our biblical and theological traditions which sustain us in times like this. Like our ancestors who walked through their own valleys of the shadow of death, we call upon our God for guidance and strength. As followers of Jesus, we make our way trusting in His abiding presence and love, while we take our place among all God’s children in this uncertain time.
There is a global pandemic
There will be more death
There will be things that do not happen
There will be lost things and lost income
All will be well
We will prevail!
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1: 6-7
Dear Lord ,
Help me to trust in your wisdom
That nothing is forgotten
Give me the strength to meet the events of my life,
Believing that in you all will be revealed
And everything will be made well.
Help me to surrender my anxiety
so that my spirit might have ease
and be at peace in love.
Julian of Norwich