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  • Reverend James Squire

Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

We normally make anthropomorphic references, giving human characteristics to, that which is important. We refer to the stock market as “needing to take a breather”, “having a difficult time”, or “trying to gain a foothold” on the economy. I have learned that the stock market is basically taking the pulse of what is going on in corporate America such as the advancements in technology, the job market, inflation, and how Main Street is doing. But I have learned something else. Even though the Stock Market is concerned about today, it is just as concerned about what the future holds so its sights are also set on what may be occurring months ahead. It also pays attention to trends. It looks at today and tomorrow!

By now we have been getting very use to living one day at a time with some days feeling so much like the day before. But we have also been getting use to looking forward to that time when we can be less afraid and go out again with no one coming toward us who represents a threat by carrying the virus. Our lives may feel like that old movie, Groundhog Day where we are dogged by a sense of “sameness”. I am not sure that I know a good anthropomorphic image to apply here, but for me, it would be that we are athletes running on a treadmill, some of us having very different days from one to the other where others are ruled by the tyranny of “the same”.

There are several ways that I know that I can improve my own life and do various things such as writing, doing physical therapy, and exercise with the goal of making tomorrow better than today. Having goals helps as well.

I remember after 9/11, another crisis in our nation’s history, we were confronted by a similar issue. We lived each day under the threat that it could be our last, but we changed as we moved forward. We know that the Pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives, as we were confronted by our own mortality. The Pandemic was an equal opportunity offender as it caused death and destruction regardless of status, class, religion, location, or race.

I have always operated from the premise that one should not let a crisis go to waste and to learn something from it. If I gave the pandemic an anthropomorphic description, it would be that it was very Job like in its nature found in Hebrew Literature. So why would I use Job to describe us during this time both today and what we could learn about how to see our future? One of the things that happened after 9/11 is that people had soul searching moments, some of which required monumental changes in their lives regarding how they would live each day and what direction they might direct their attention in future days. Two of my married friends gave up high powered corporate law careers to become teachers. The Pandemic affected Wall Street and Main Street but in a different way that could focus lives on matter of the spirit in a powerful way.

We shouldn’t miss this opportunity to welcome a deepening change in our faith. All of us felt vulnerable and Job like in never knowing what would come next. We certainly had a lot of questions of God as Job did. Why did my _________ to die? What is next? What is the price I am paying in living my life now? Is there something in life that would give me more meaning and fulfillment? Where is hope?

I saw this search for answers in a very concrete example. After 9/11 admission applications went up significantly in faith-based schools. Parents wanted their children to have more of a spiritual experience as part of their education. They wanted a school that would take seriously the building or revealing of character in their children.

This is an opportunity for our nation to find a new relationship with our God in the same way that Job attempted to do. Job asks God a lot of reason-based questions such as where God was when all of this was happening to him and why did this happen to him and his loved ones. When God responds, it is not what Job expected for he offers a kind of how dare you ask me that kind of question. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind; Who is this who obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you will answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” (Job 38:1-4) The feedback to Job is harsh because God wants to teach him an important life lesson. You can’t live by reason alone. Faith takes over where reason leaves off.

The message given to Job is the same message that we have gotten during the Pandemic. Yes, we have to live by reason and science but we have questions that point out that we can’t live now or in our future without faith. In essence, where reason stops on those hard to answer spiritual questions, answers are provided not by reason but by our faith as Job found. In the same way that there are no atheists in foxholes with bullets over our head, we need to reach out to our creator and Lord. How do we get started as Job like figures?

Last night I had a zoom meeting with a couple whose marriage I will bless in the Fall. What an example of coping with the now but looking to their future. I gave them an assignment that they needed some initial help to get started so I gave them just a few directions. I asked them each to write a statement about their faith. First, write it for YOU not for me. Both had been through some major heartaches beyond the Pandemic? Did God, Jesus, or something else help you to get through that time? What outside of yourselves helped you to cope? Then for the most important piece of advice. It was advice which resonated with the couple. It gave them a clear direction to the point that they smiled with insight and recognition. Their eyes said, “We get it?” What would each of you ask me to pray for? If you want to discover what is in the heart of someone, ask them that question. Try that question every day. What would you want your prayer to be? Some prayers about today? Some about the future? This is a practice that could change your life! It seemed to make sense to my happy couple on a zoom meeting.

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