It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
— Deuteronomy 31:8
I’m getting nervous about Fall programming, and I’m weary from not gathering with my people. We spent the summer getting creative and making plans but trying not to hold them too tightly. But I want it so badly – for our children and youth ministry pods to work, for outdoor worship to inspire and challenge, and for our outreach ministries to thrive as we redefine the boundaries of church.
I believe we are called to keep hustling, to refuse to give up on these truths we believe about who God is and who we are called to be, and to fight like hell to stay connected to God and one another even when it feels like the rug has been pulled from beneath us.
So yesterday morning, I made sure to go upstairs to my prayer space and spend some time with God. I mostly read, and then I wrote down my prayer. I asked for God to bless our Big Fat Pandemic Fall. (Read like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”)
But as I was thinking of all the places I hoped for God to show up, I felt it wash over me that God is already there. That God is always ahead of us…
And so I prayed:
God you are already in the fire pit waiting to be constructed for small groups to meet outdoors. But help us to really be there – to open our lives to you and to one another.
God you are already in the Sunday School classroom filled with handmade Harry Potter decorations for our Associate Minister’s drive-thru baby shower. Help us to be there and really feel the joy that her baby represents!
God, you are already in the outdoor pavilion where we will worship on Sunday for the first time in person in six months. As we celebrate our 175th anniversary, be with us in our camping chairs as we so desperately miss our pews. (Also God, could you throw us a bone and let our technology work smoothly so people can watch online too?)
Already there. But not just in the church and what the church is becoming. There as we navigate new workplaces, schools, and socially distanced get-togethers. There in our homes which sometimes feel like havens and other times like prisons. There when we are living our best Big Fat Pandemic Lives and there when we want to curl up in a ball and tell someone to wake us up when this nightmare ends. There as we wait for test results. There as we celebrate new life and say goodbye to those lost too soon.
There, and there and there…
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses announces that he will not cross the Jordan with God’s people. He spent all that time leading the people to freedom, living in the in between with them, and yet he would be buried in that in between place, never quite making it to the promised land.
But not to worry, he assured them, “I won’t be there, but God will. In fact God is already ten steps ahead of you.” (My paraphrase.)
God goes ahead of us.
So maybe we should spend less time praying for God to show up and more time looking for where God is leading us. Less time fighting what we have lost and more time noticing what we have gained. Less time looking back and more time looking ahead. Then maybe we will discover that God is already there.