I went on a much-needed vacation with my family last week to Key West, which is probably my favorite place in all of Florida.
I'm always drawn to places that have their own sense of self---cities, towns, spaces that are unique, quirky, artistic, and filled with generative energy.
In the past, we would have wandered the streets of Key West in the evening and they would have been teeming with people, restaurants, and bars filled to capacity.
There would have been music pouring out of every venue, musicians in the streets, artists everywhere selling their work.
But things were different this time.
This time the streets weren't full of people. Most of the venues were closed. There were few musicians out, and the ones who were out had their voices muffled behind masks as they sang.
Life during COVID-19 changes everything. Much like it does to our bodies, this virus destroys life in the space around it--tearing down the ways we celebrate, enjoy, and fully participate in life.
It even threatens to take apart the very spaces and places that once gave us life... if we let it.
You see, it's easy in our current circumstances to begin to despair that life won't ever be as enjoyable as it once was. We can begin to lose hope even in the efficacy and powers of the sacred, life-giving spaces we have relied upon in the past.
I read this poem by Richard Wilbur the other day that really helped me to make sense of how all of these overwhelming feelings can keep us spinning toward hopelessness and helplessness.
The world is bottomless,A drift of star-specks or the Red King's dream,And fogs our thought, although it is not trueThat we grasp nothing till we grasp it all.In other words, we think we have to have all the answers to the questions that plague us. We believe we know how things ought to be, at least in our own minds.
We have to figure it all out.
But the world is deeper and more complex than that, and we don't do ourselves any favors when we continue to raise our expectations to levels that don't even exist anymore.
It's like this... We keep trying to climb the ladder that we believe will get us out of our current mess. We struggle to get to the top of it, and then when we do we realize we had leaning against the wrong wall.
As I walked through the streets of Key West last week, I suddenly realized that the space around me might have changed in the way that I understood it, but that it had a great deal of life to give in ways I'd never before imagined.
God is like this. We think we have some things about God figured out and then when our world falls apart or gets turned upside down, we're suddenly aware that we have nothing figured out when it comes to God.
One of the ancient Hebrew prophets spoke of the bottomless nature of God in this way:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways.
As you move through the familiar spaces in your life today--be aware of the changes, mourn the loss of your old feelings toward them... but know that there is more to them... more to all of this.
And definitely more to God, who is present in the midst of it.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.