Peace Amidst the Panic

You have to be confident enough to be courageous in the right moments.” – Brian McNamee, Vice-President Amgen, public education advocate and youth mentor.

In 1999 I was a young associate pastor for a church in Kansas. My senior pastor was a frail 79 year-old. He wore suits to the office that sagged over his smaller frame. Semi-retired, he would nap in his office chair after lunch with his head tipped back and his mouth gaping open. 

Never mind the small frame and the occasional naps,  Pastor Van, who has since gone to be with the Lord, was a spiritual giant. He was kind but firm, fair but gracious, honest but always in a hopeful, “we can do it together,” attitude. He was unshaken. He lived through the Great Depression, served in WWII, and pastored through the wild 60’s and 70’s. Every church grew under his leadership. He wasn’t famous, but to those who knew him – he was legendary.

In 1999 computers were on the cusp of shutting down the now tech-dependent world. Computer programmers created codes associated with two digit years (Windows ‘95 ring a bell?). As the year 2000 approached people were increasingly terrified that planes would crash, power outages would sweep the nation, and businesses would lose crucial data. By December of ‘99 I pleaded with Pastor Van that we should “prepare for desperate times! What are we going to do if the world goes dark?!” To which Pastor Van quipped, “Take a nap.”

Pastor Van experienced more global crises in his life than I could remember from history class. He elaborated quite nicely, “we’ve been through crises before. We will get through this one, too. The best minds are working on the solutions, so do what you need to do and leave the rest to God and the problem-solvers. So, while you worry about what you can’t control, I’ll take my nap.” I left his office bewildered, and he took a nap. 

Fast forward twenty-one years. The past two decades have seen the turn of the millennia (the world didn’t end), the terror attacks of 9/11, the recession of 2008, and now the Coronavirus; a pandemic that has forced layoffs, selloffs, school closings, restaurant closings, church cancelations, and probably more restrictions to come. COVID-19 has introduced the catchphrase, “social distancing,” 20 seconds of singing while washing our hands, and the panic hoarding of toilet paper (of all things). 

Will it get harder? Probably. Will God offer an easy solution? Probably not.  Will the world look different on the other side? Most likely. Will we get through this crisis like so many before? Yes. But will we learn more about ourselves, our faith, our families, our communities, and our humanity as a result? Absolutely. 

We simply have to be confident enough to be courageous in the right moments. Jesus’ own example renders our best course of action if we want to embody the joy of life even in the face of death and suffering. 3 Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe; may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. 

Maybe, just maybe, peace will take the form of a nap.