You feel alone. You feel crazy. I understand you. And I want to assure you, you are not alone. You are not crazy.
We are dealing with crazy times, and all the feels are working overtime during this intense season of COVID-19.
Who knew that wearing a mask or not wearing a mask would cause so much division and tension? Remember, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
The last thing I need right now is to get into “Mask Wars.” Only by the grace of God have I kept my opinions off social media. Jesus said we could ask Him for wisdom and He would give it to us generously without finding fault (James 1:5). Ask Him and then go in peace with your decision.
The, “to wear a mask or not wear one,” is one dilemma, but there are a million others right now, which can be overwhelming. My advice? Try and talk through your anxieties to another person who’s willing to listen, someone you can connect with who provides empathy and not another graph or chart to look at. Quite often the very thing you were afraid to share is the very thing someone else needs to hear.
Talking to God aloud helps, too. I also suggest reading the Psalms aloud. King David of Israel wrote most of the Psalms when he was under stress and he knew how to lament. He also knew the source of strength and comfort; the Lord God Almighty.
Lastly, I recommend reading books that reveal the heartfelt testimonies of others. Specifically, in the season we’re in, there are three authors whose writing has inspired and given me perspective: Francis Chan, Nadia Bolz-Weber and Brennan Manning. All three are unique individuals who’ve faced challenges. Their similarities lie in knowing of God’s great love, grace and forgiveness.
Francis Chan’s passion, his zeal for God and others, inspires me. He grew up in Chinatown in San Francisco, where his parents had immigrated from Hong Kong in the 1960s. His mother died giving birth to him, and later his stepmother died in a car accident when Chan was eight, followed four years later by the loss of his father to cancer. Hard stuff, and yet when God pursued Chan, Chan not only accepted God’s unconditional “crazy love” for him, but also the call to serve as a pastor.
Chan attended seminary, wrote books, planted a church and then in January 2020 moved his family to Hong Kong, where he lives and works in the poverty-stricken neighborhood where his mother used to do ministries in the 1950s. His book, “Crazy Love,” impacted me when I read it years ago.
In one section of the book, Chan writes on the subject of safety. I tried to use a quote from this section recently to argue a point about wearing or not wearing a mask, but my son Marco shared another perspective: “Francis isn't talking about being reckless for selfish reasons. He's saying don't let safety interfere with a far greater calling.” Good point. Good truth.
When I’m scared or anxious, whether the threat is real or imagined, I’m often praying to have God remove the awful circumstances, not for peace and courage to meet the circumstances with God as my strength, His Holy Spirit as my anchor. Most often my fear is really from a lack of trust and confidence in God’s way, provision and perfect plan.
Another honest and fresh perspective on living the Gospel authentically comes from author, speaker and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. Her book, “Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People,” is worth a read.
Bolz-Weber grew up in Colorado Springs with a fundamentalist Christian family and in 1986, at the age of 17, she started getting tattoos. The ones on her arms mark the liturgical year and the story of the Gospel. She briefly attended Pepperdine University before dropping out and moving to Denver, where she says she became an alcoholic and drug abuser and often felt like one of "society's outsiders."
In 1991, she sobered up, and as of 2020 has remained so. In 2008, she became an ordained Lutheran Pastor and started her own church, The House for All Sinners and Saints (which is often shortened to just “House”). Her church is open and welcoming to all who enter. One third of her church is part of the LGBT community and comforting to people with drug addiction, depression, and even those who are not believers of her faith.
I don’t agree with everything Bolz-Weber shares and I’m sure she would say the same of me. I like her. I’ve learned from her. Her words below have helped me in this “Time of Cray":
“To everyone who has watched the date of their wedding or graduation or their birthday, or their dissertation defense, or their long hoped for vacation, or their family reunion, or the ‘non-essential’ medical procedure they hoped would change their life, come and go; I ask God that Your presence and Your peace be felt. And if that’s not possible, could you just nudge the right person to reach out and call them? Just that Lord. Just that?”
Lastly, but certainly not least, is Brennan Manning, who’s since passed on from this life into eternity. Manning was born and raised in Depression-era New York City, and after finishing high school, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War. After returning to the States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Penn.
Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest. In the late 1960s, he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason's assistant and dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave in a Spanish desert.
In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism. There is so much wisdom and love in his writing. It’s where I first heard the truth of God’s love so succinctly put: “God loves you right where you are at and not where you should be, because you’ll never be where you should be.”
“The Ragamuffin Gospel” book he wrote is oozing with wisdom. I share with you a passage:
“In the winter of 1968-69, I lived in a cave in the mountains of the Zaragosa Desert in Spain… On the night of December 13, during what began as a long and lonely hour of prayer, I heard in faith Jesus Christ say, ‘For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you, who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear My name. For love of you, I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.’ These words are burned on my life... I looked at the crucifix for a long time, figuratively saw the blood streaming from every pore of His body, and heard the cry of His wounds... The longer I looked, the more I realized that no man has ever loved me and no one ever could love me as He did.’”
Manning is right. There is no match in Christ’s love for you. He fully knows you and He fully loves you. His perfect self accepts, loves and forgives our imperfect selves. He forgives our sins. He loves us for who we are, and not for what we do.
God is not a genie in a bottle, yet I know His word is life changing. The whole Bible is not about you, but about Him as a God who restores and redeems. I always marvel that Job, after such loss of material items, family and health, was still able to say, “My Redeemer lives” and not, “My Disciplinarian lives.”
Read the Bible. Read of His crazy love for you, His grace and His mercy, and you’ll know you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.