These days of the coronavirus, time seems irrelevant, because it doesn’t really matter what day it is. As Tom Hanks said on Saturday Night Live at Home (April 11th), “There’s no such thing as Saturdays anymore. It’s just, ‘Everyday is today…'”
All we know is the world is in crisis. Death abounds. Inequities between people, societies, and nations are amplified. Racial violence increases. Life as we know it struggles to continue.
For those of us who don’t work on the frontlines, the world has shrunk to the size of our home. Its four walls make up the backdrop of our daily stage – where we enact school, work, life. Relationships with those whom we cohabit come to the forefront – good, neutral, or bad. Quarantine has driven even the most introverted of us stir crazy – to the point where a trip to pick up take-out becomes the highlight of our day. The extroverts will need therapy after all this.
Shelter-in-place means physical stillness. And there’s a beauty in stillness, when the camera captures a moment and time freezes. The last couple of months have felt like this for me. Time has passed by more slowly, allowing me to notice the details of the moment.
It has taken stillness for me to admit I am tired. Since the pandemic, the tiredness has greeted me every morning, no matter how well I slept the night before. It follows me throughout the day. On one hand, it doesn’t make sense as I no longer have to commute to work or do any business travel. I’m also blessed to have a job and one I can do from home. But my job has gotten more demanding lately. I am in meetings all day, every day. I do a lot and yet I feel less productive. And like many who work from home, I have to adapt to juggling work, family, and life with very little boundaries. All these things combined contribute to the tiredness.
There’s more to this tiredness though. I have been working in corporate America for more than two decades now. While I’ve had many good relationships and friendships over the years, I’ve also had deceitful and toxic relationships that have left unwanted residue in my life. A couple of incidents have triggered past trauma for me. This time, I feel trapped by the seemingly larger forces that control people and culture – an unholy mixture of colonized mindset and sexism – and I truly wondered if I can survive.
As I struggle to survive in the workplace, I remember how I used to read scripture, study it sometimes, or just listen to what God’s Spirit might reveal and say. I don’t know when, but somehow as I got older, I spent less time doing this. Instinctively, I turn to the Psalms. As I read the Psalms written by David, I am amazed how many times he faced betrayal and death. David shares his full self with God, engaging in intimate dialogue as though God is physically present, able to hear his cries.
Psalm 7 is David’s desperate cry for help as he’s being pursued by Cush, a Benjaminite. When I read it, I could mentally and emotionally relate to this feeling of having to run from enemies, of not having the energy to win the fight.
1 O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
2 or like a lion they will tear me apart;
they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.
6 Rise up, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.
9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous
you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God.
– Psalm 7:1-2, 6, 9 (New Revised Standard Version)
I like how David simply states his situation – how dangerous it is – and asks God to rescue him. He appeals to God’s righteousness and justice. This appeal suggests David knows God’s character but the fascinating thing for me is David’s reliance on God’s power to intervene and deliver him. The one who killed Goliath needs to be rescued.
The God Who Rescues
It has taken a pandemic for me to ask God for rescue. Over time, I have become so confident in my own capabilities, my own resources. These recent incidents have made me realize how real the surrounding darkness can be. Through reading the Psalms, I am reminded of God’s power to overcome darkness, and God’s rescue from desperate situations. The Psalmists live to write and sing another day.
Amongst immigrant and refugee communities, I believe there’s a common narrative of needing to be rescued from desperate circumstances – at least for those who emigrate due to political, social, and economic hardship. Growing up, I remember my family recounting those who showed kindness when we first arrived, and the times so-and-so family came to our rescue. Perhaps it’s a legacy of my immigrant experience that makes recounting God’s rescue a natural and necessary practice. Immigrants don’t forget their immigration story. We remind ourselves and tell future generations what happened. We continue to be grateful to those who welcomed us, rescued us.
As I continue to live another day, I’m grateful for the gift of stillness, for the knowledge of my need for rescue, and for the God who rescues.
Photo by: Alan Vernon on Flickr