I was in a store yesterday and recognized the cashier, a young woman who is a leading lay delegate in our annual conference. Since no one was behind me in line we took a moment to catch up. She shared how the pandemic had forced a job change among other challenges. She also mentioned her Methodist church had started back in-person services for three weeks and then a number of members contracted the virus and now the church had to return to online worship only. With almost a tear in her eye she said, “I’m just missing community.” Can you relate?
Six months in and we are still wondering when life will return to normal. Many people have lost jobs, aren’t sure how they will pay bills, struggle with whether to put their kids in school or figure out how to teach at home, care for loved ones, keep themselves protected and more. How many of us are exhausted by having to wear a mask every time we go out the door? Add to this mix a racial divide in our country that seems to be at the boiling point. And, oh yeah, we are entering a political season. This is an energy draining time unlike any I have known.
So yesterday morning I was sitting in my study at 5AM reading another chapter in a book by Ruth Haley Barton. Her book is a spiritual guide for leaders and she uses the example of Moses in the wilderness. In the chapter today she related Moses’ experience following the disobedience of the people when they made the golden calf (remember, Moses’ own brother, Aaron, led the rebellion!). Moses feels let down but needs to intercede before a God on behalf of the whole people. He’s exhausted and basically needs to know, “God, are you really going to stay with me in this?”
Barton makes the point that sometimes we get so weary and discouraged trying to do all we have to do, we lose the one thing that motivates us to keep going —experiencing God’s presence. What do you do when you can’t feel God’s presence like you always have before?
The story is told in Exodus 33. Moses made his case before God, and God told Moses to hide in the cleft of the rock while God’s glory passes by. God’s glory in full view would be too much for a human being to endure. There is always a respectful line between the sacred and the secular, but God does allow us to get close. While shielding Moses with God’s hand, God’s glory passes by, and for Moses that is enough. He leaves the mountain a changed person.
Are you tired? Feeling alone? Missing church? Maybe it would help to do what I did early yesterday morning. Go crawl under a rock and just say, “God you are what I need most. Even more than all the routines that have helped me experience you. Even more than all the inconvenient changes of this time going back to normal. I need you. Pass by so I can know you really are staying with me.
Who knows, maybe in a season away from church we will grow even closer to God.