‘You listened to my cry’

Tales From the Unending Story

May 6, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 24 Issue 10
Joshua Penfold | Columnist
‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

Dear God:

I’m really not sure what to pray or how to feel these days. I’ve become a strange blend of anxious and relaxed, concerned and content, grateful and restless, ambitious and listless.

Nothing really changes from day to day in my little life within these walls as I stay home. My biggest news is that I geared up with mask, gloves and hand sanitizer to go grocery shopping. Yet the news reminds me that the world out there is changing continually.

It’s disorienting, dizzying and draining, so I turn off the news and ignore the world to try to regain my bearings, play with my kids and recover from this jarring jolt. But quickly my stomach sinks, like when you get carsick in the back seat from not looking out the window in a moving vehicle.

So I keep peeking out, looking out at the world often enough to prevent car sickness, and looking down occasionally to get relief from the dizzying world outside. I can’t seem to do anything but cope and manage these revolving unseemly ailments. 

And then I realize, God, that I don’t know when I left you behind. I don’t know how you fit into this equation. I have more time than before, yet I get less done, including time with you. I’m realizing just how much I relied on my routine. I confess, God, it’s taking time to figure out how and where to create space for us to meet together. I miss you.

I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to. Totally different circumstances, I realize, but I think I can share in his prayer. He, too, found himself confined, yet he was compelled to commune with you: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2).

I finally found, or made, a few minutes here to write this prayer. I pray with thanksgiving that I am healthy, well-fed and financially stable, but I know there are millions of people, billions even, from around the corner to around the world, who are facing not just the fear of instability, scarcity, poverty, hunger, sickness and death. They are experiencing it. My fear is their reality. I find myself treading in this brew of fear-wrought emotions, now mixed with guilt, and maybe shame, that I even feel this way while I’m relatively well-off.

But, for many, these aren’t new realities. They have always been there. I’ve simply become more aware of them because this pandemic has worn thin the veil that I’ve used to blind myself from the challenges of others.

I am only one person, God, and I know my struggles and anxieties are no less real just because others’ struggles are greater. Help me, Lord, to hold them all in balance. Better yet, God, hold them with me, hold me in them.

I don’t want you to take away the revelation of the challenging realities of the world, only take the paralyzing anxiety that prevents me from loving action, from peaceful resting, from passionate praying, and from actual abiding with you, the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.

Create in me a capacity to care for myself and others. Sustain in me the ability to see each moment as communion with you. Redeem in me all my thoughts and feelings to your glory, to my faithfulness and to the service of others. Thanks for always listening. Amen.

Joshua Penfold (penfoldjoshua@gmail.com) is staying home these days.

Read more Tales from the Unending Story columns:
Smudged with humanity
The gift of imagination 
Lessons from the wheel
Eating God's words

‘I’m reading the story of Jonah, one of your servants who also left you behind, or tried to… I think I can share in his prayer.’ (Image by Jeff Jacobs/Pixabay)

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