Looking back, looking ahead

Yesterday, Pastor Pete preached to us about Psalm 124. One of the songs of ascent, it is meant for singing as you go up to worship, most traditionally for pilgrims as they journeyed up the road to Jerusalem and to the temple there – a steep climb up.

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,” the psalmist writes, “let Israel now say – if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive […] the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us […] over us would have gone the raging waters.”

But, as he reminds the reader, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

If it had not been for the LORD on our side…

Pete encouraged us, even in these strange and anxious times, to look back over the story of our lives and recount all the ways that the LORD has been on our side, been present with us and a help to us.

It’s a timely word, these days, as we sit in the in-between space between the lockdown of previous months, the (relative) freedom of our current situation, and the anticipation of increasing restrictions due to growing case counts of COVID-19. In-between places like this are uncomfortable. And yet, we are stuck in this one, without much control over when it ends, or what happens next.

So I’m determined to try and use this time not to worry, but to reflect on how God has been present with me in this time, on what I’ve learned, and what I’d like to keep when I have a choice about going “back to normal.”

I have learned that – for me – there really is no solace like being outdoors. That running away to the woods and camping is all the escape I really need – even if it’s not all that I wanted. That I feel close to God there, at peace and still.

That as much as I want to be informed, sometimes the best thing I can do is turn off the news and go outside. Leave it to God’s hands, and go do something with my own: bake bread, or pot plants, or practice yoga.

I could go on and on. Living with my sister again these past few months, I’ve learned a lot about myself (and her!) – like our very different opinions on whether dirty dishes can sit in the sink. Or whether watching Top Chef counts as relaxing or stressful television.

But the things I want to really reflect on are these: what brings me joy, even in hard times? What feeds my anxiety and stress, and what quiets them down? What helps me to live more deeply into the person God is calling me to be, and what pulls me away from that?

If it had not been for the Lord on my side…

But God has been on my side, and your side too. This week, I hope you’ll join me in taking some time to reflect on God’s presence in your life this season, and what it has taught you, to carry into the next one.

-Pastor Jen

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