On Friday, I took a walk with my sister, my 12 year-old niece, and a few of her young friends. We were somehow trying to stay relationally connected, and socially distanced, all at the same time. My sister asked the children in our group if they were missing school. “A little,” they said. My niece replied, “I miss my friends….And I miss knowing what to do.”
For some reason, that sentence, “I miss knowing what to do,” resonated with me so deeply. Isn’t that what I had been feeling, in one form or another, all week? I realized that all that day I had found myself saying “Now I don’t know what to do about…,” or “I can’t figure out how to do…,” or, “I just don’t have a category for…..”
I miss waking up in the morning and generally knowing what I need to do for the day. I feel disoriented. Many of the basic things I used to know how to do—grocery shopping, visiting a friend in the hospital, planning a social event, attending a Bible Study, hugging a crying person after worship, clasping a hand in greeting, counseling a client in grief–all these things have been disrupted, and now need to be reconsidered, recalibrated or let go of completely. I’m not sure how to do my job now. I don’t know if I should make plans, even long-term ones. I also don’t really know how to do life without making them. I don’t know if, or how, to plan my two children’s weddings, which are scheduled for this summer. Does Amazon sell a bridal checklist for planning a wedding during a pandemic? (This is a rhetorical question- please don’t send me a link… 🙂
I also don’t know how to vigilantly submit to the directives handed down by medical professionals who I trust and value, without then going the other direction and completely putting trust in my own vigilance: what begins as washing my hands faithfully seems to turn in to washing my hands fretfully, scared that I missed a spot, or later worried-that-I-just-touched-my-counter-which-I-haven’t-washed-in-the-last-two-hours, etc., etc. I seem to keep falling off one side of the horse or the other. I don’t know what to do, but I have a vague feeling I’m doing it wrong. Also, one of our main directives right now is to stay home and avoid “doing things” outside our shelter. I keep looking fretfully at the news: is our strategy working? Is it stemming the tide? I really hope so…. but then I wonder, when will it feel like my ‘not doing anything’ is ‘doing something’?
When I left the park on Friday, that phrase ‘I miss knowing what to do’ stayed with me. Something about it sounded vaguely familiar. I arrived home and looked it up (I’ve got time). Sure enough, in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah receives word that ‘a great multitude’ of Moabites and Ammonites are coming against Judah. It is an overwhelming and dread-full situation (it would be in all caps as the headliner on my news feed). I was struck by what Jehoshaphat did next:
3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
Jehoshaphat’s alarm becomes a path for him- he resolves to inquire, he fasts (which in its own way is a great example of “not doing” something), and he invites others to join him in seeking help from the Lord. He “stood in the assembly.” I am so moved by what he prayed, and also by who was praying with him:
“’O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? ….we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.’ All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20:12-13)
In a stunning demonstration of “not knowing what to do,” Jehoshaphat’s dread and desperation become the community’s entry point for acknowledging how little they knew, and turning their eyes to God, (even the “the little ones”!).
God says in response, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde….see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” (Vs. 20:15). I am so encouraged that as they turn their eyes to God, God in His grace invites them to “see” something about His presence in the battle. In fact, the battle is His. It doesn’t rest on their doing at all.
I am so surprised by God, time and again. He gives me permission to not know what to do. He gives me a place to go with my not-knowing. He gives me a Person on which to put my fretful, distracted eyes. And He invites me to see, by faith, that He is in fact doing something. He is with us, He battles for us, and He has accomplished our salvation.