In early March, when there was talk of suspending in person worship in every church, our church made the decision to go ahead and suspend in person worship. We felt this was the responsible thing to do for our two churches, to separate ourselves from other people, and crowded places.
This decision forced me to grow in areas that I had put off for one reason or another.
Leering from every corner, anxiety screamed, “Get comfortable with filming, swallow your pride and promote that video, learn about videography, take a cram course on lighting and camera angle!”
Every Methodist preacher with a smartphone or camera flooded Facebook with their sermon. At first, the views were encouraging, but in the second month online, excitement began to wane.
Church was not the same, our fellowship had been altered, the presence of God was dimming. Sure, we made the best of a bad situation, but it was hard.
No one was talking about the elephant in the room: How can churches survive if the people don’t show up? Preachers and church members fretted over the future of ministry. We all did what we could; reach out through social media, work harder to stay connected to other people, and pray.
On July 9, 2020, my husband and I both tested positive for Covid-19. All the worries of getting sick became a reality.
I immediately thought back to all the people I had been around, made a list and called them. Fear increased as I worried for my family, church members, and others I may have infected.
I felt shame, guilt and abandoned by God.
I had done everything I was supposed to do. I distanced socially, wore a mask, washed my hands and only left the house for groceries, why had this happened?
I constantly fought the dread of dying and leaving my four children without a mother. My fear and dread pushed me to pray. My family quarantined for 3 weeks and were retested, our results were negative. I should have started to feel better, but I battled with fatigue, physically and mentally. Would I be changed by this virus, never regaining my energy or mental capacity to process information?
It was more difficult to concentrate, I had trouble finding the words to complete sentences and my motivation was just gone. I was not hopeful that my situation would get better, I felt defeated, but I pushed through and accepted my new reality.
Thankfully by September, my energy returned, I was able to speak in complete sentences, and I just felt better. Looking back over my two-month struggle to return to normal, I could finally see that God was speaking to me all along. God had not abandoned me, God was with me the entire time, speaking words of life into my spirit. Showing me just enough to get me through one day at a time.
But after going into shut-down mode, we are still socially distancing. Wearing a mask has become second nature, the nodding of our head — more exaggerated and smiling with our eyes is much more essential. No hugs, no handshakes, don’t even think about coughing or sneezing in public.
The things that make us human, physical contact, facial expressions and yes even allergies, are forbidden.
In Matthew 1:20-21, we read that when Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided that it was time for him to give up on their marriage. I’m sure he felt hopeless and betrayed. But notice what happens when Joseph decides to give up, an angel of the Lord comes to him in a dream saying:
“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 NIV.
Not only are Joseph’s fears calmed, but he is now made a participant, he gets to name the baby. Though his part is small and perceived as less important than Mary’s, after all, it’s not like he gets to choose the name, he is still involved in God’s plan.
Like Joseph, we think it’s time to give up and move on, perhaps we think God is no longer with us.
It’s easy to feel abandoned by God and want to give up because we have lost all hope that the small role, we play is making a difference. We may not be able to do ministry on the same level as we were before this pandemic, but we are still a part of God’s plan.
Something else I find interesting is that the angel only told Joseph enough to get him through the birth of Jesus, nothing more.
We want to know what to expect so that we can be prepared, we want to know what our future ministry will look like but maybe God is telling us only enough to get a little further down the road. This requires faith that God is with us, and that God’s plan will continue to unfold as needed.
For me, I need to push through those feelings of discouragement and frustration, to trust that God has a plan and I am involved.
Rev. Nicole Boddie is the pastor of Sabine Pass United Methodist Church and St. John’s United Methodist Church, Port Arthur. Rev. Boddie and her congregations would love to have you join them in person any Sunday you are in the area.
A Closer Christmas is brought to you by the Communications Department of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. To be considered as a future blogger, please contact Shannon W. Martin, Director of Communication at Click to email.