A few weeks ago, when this viral scare became my life’s reality, I slipped as low into depression as I can ever remember. I’d like to say my emotional vortex was caused by concern for the world, this great nation, our Chattanooga community, or even my family. However, my personal spiral was a step by step process transitioning from the disappointment of canceling future plans, to the frustration of not being able to control my own destiny, and finally to the discouragement that I must not be important enough for an all-controlling sovereign God to care about. Wow, that got dark quick. So did my mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. When I say “dark”, I mean Satan whispered into my ear the strangest most nonsensical story of unimportance I’ve ever experienced.
I share this with you for a few reasons. First, these are dark times with scary days of uncertain realities. I have never before really struggled with depression. During the days involved with this narrative, I thought, “I may need meds…stat!” This reality makes me want to check on people. The people I love who live alone or have previously struggled with anxiety and depression. I want to double-check they aren’t listening to false realities or giving in to fear due to the ever-changing bullet points of the existing realities.
What I experienced from my first days of COVID-19 was the slippery slope of how disappointment can transform into discouragement. I came to the sad realization that I had for months been looking at my own desires and passions as the primary necessity of my life. I craved the control of finances, experiences, the ability to prioritize events and responsibilities. I had created many idols for my own satisfaction and fulfillment. When the fate of these idols instantly became uncertain, I felt despair rather than peace. So I prayerfully emptied my heart two weeks ago. I let go of a good passion that promoted the utilization of God-given gifts. Not because that’s how we all must react in order to let go of sinful control but because in this instance, for me to not live in discouragement, simply processing my disappointment isn’t enough. My quarantine has become its own sort of rehab. I have to cast aside the dreams God isn’t fulfilling today. My sinful idolization brought me to a place where I can’t even hold those things loosely. So every morning, I clear my heart of desire, I pray for the Holy Spirit to fill me with the desires he plans to complete TODAY. The last few weeks have not been perfect. But, for the most part, these have been sweet fulfilling days.
My Aunt Bud shared a sermon illustration she heard from her daughter. I may not quote it perfectly but I believe it could have a great many life lessons for these pandemic days:
A lumberjack had the task of cutting down a group of trees. As he approached the first one, he saw a bird making a nest. As he shook the tree to alert the bird of its impending upheaval, he noticed the bird move to another tree. Being a smart lumberjack, he chose to preemptively shake the tree of the bird’s new potential home rather than wait for the construction of a new nest to begin. The bird and the lumberjack repeated this pattern from tree to tree until the bird settled on a large rock and began to build its nest. It wasn’t bad for the bird to nest in a tree, nor was it the lumberjack’s lack of kindness to cut down said tree. However this illustration hits you, the unmistakable point of this narrative is the rock can never be disturbed. Always strong and sturdy, its existence is everpresent.
During this uncertain time, this bird is building her nest on the kindness of an all-controlling God who can’t help but be good to a daughter whom he adores.