A Lament for this Season
Sundays have been difficult. I remember the first morning we met with our House Church over Zoom. March 22nd. I remember it because I took a picture of our kitchen table - my coffee set out next to the computer, our communion elements prepared on a favorite dish, our daughter sitting happily occupied with a new activity book. It felt so picturesque (ergo, the picture) to do church at home as a family, and I felt energized that we were continuing to meet as the body through such a unique time. Our group’s conversation lasted nearly 3 hours as we debriefed the first week of quarantine and shared vulnerably about the roller coaster of emotions we had all experienced.
Praise God that He does not change.
133 days later, Sundays feel a lot less picturesque. It’s a challenge (read: feels impossible) to keep our kids engaged with a virtual meeting. Mornings we don’t have to try to convince our daughter to participate in the Bridge Kids story time are a huge win. We have fought over where to put the computer, because our one year old keeps pressing all the buttons. It’s hard to focus and remain engaged in conversation when you’re never really looking anyone in the eye. There’s sometimes a sense of loneliness when House Church ends, as the space that was filled with catching up and coordinating lunch plans is now replaced with the repetitive debate of, “What can we do today that’s different from what we have been doing the last 133 days?”
Praise God that He is sovereign.
I share all this to lament. I don’t think meeting virtually is the way church is supposed to be. My husband and I have talked of this recently as he stated his conviction that just as God incarnated Himself among us in the physical person of Jesus, he believes we are ultimately meant to gather together in person. Christ didn’t appear to us as an apparition in the sky, an “original Zoom” he joked, but rather as flesh and blood who walked and breathed and ate among His people. We are meant to look each other in the eye. To offer an embrace to a grieving friend. To hold a new baby. To break bread and share communion of the same loaf. We can lament that we have suffered in this season with its unique challenges, and that not meeting in person has been really sad and difficult. We can lament over the loss of gathered celebrations, the loss of gathered grieving. Jesus, our Rescuer, is intimately acquainted with suffering, and as our caring Creator, God is compassionate. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Praise God that He is good.
I do share this to lament but I also share these thoughts to encourage. So that anyone reading might know they aren’t the only one who has found this distance challenging and sad. House Church and my engagement in it is requiring more of me than Sundays used to, but as I count the cost I can say with a thousand percent certainty that this is worth it. The Lord is near. Even through the challenges and interruptions and drawbacks of meeting together virtually, it’s infinitely better than calling a break on gathering until this all blows over. The church is God’s design and we are called to press in rather than retreat when storms do come, as they will both in our personal lives and in our community, nation, and world. We remember that our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
In this pressing in, we experience beautiful moments of vulnerability and confession and community. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of idolatry, selfishness, and laziness and reminded me through scripture of God’s steadfast love and mercy towards us. This reminder, the gratitude and joy it brings, has given me an even greater urgency to “go therefore and make disciples,” starting at home with my own children. To be honest, this growth hasn’t felt cute – it has felt very slow and clunky. But as I lament what has been lost and what continues to be hard, the Holy Spirit is near as a comfort, binding up my broken heart. This helps me to remember what is to gain in any circumstance – intimacy with God, deeper relationship with others, wisdom through His word, and the opportunity to give thanks because Christ is with us always, to the end of the age.
Praise God for His steadfast love.
I pray for us all that we would lament well, crying out to our unchanging, sovereign, good God, submitting our emotions and circumstances to Him, seeking the Lord and His strength, seeking His presence continually. I pray He would continue to move and work in and through His people, reminding us of His steadfast love. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering and press in to His calling as we commit to a journey of transformation together toward Jesus for the glory of God.
Mariann is a Covenant Partner and member of the Westside House Church.