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Every experience of solitude and struggle offers us an opportunity for growth and transformation. “Go to your room!” The words sounded harsh, but the intent was to force separation from the little brother I was abusing, to allow me time to reflect on my behavior. In addition, I often heard this, “Don’t come back until you are ready to play fairly.” The expectation of change, that I would do better or be better, was part of the package. My first semester in college I entered a time out, a self-imposed isolation of 16 hours a day to prepare for cumulative exams. I was angry with myself for procrastination, faced with a ton of reading and a faint hope that 3 days in the stacks would be sufficient to catch up and know the material well enough for test day. Would I learn better habits, or better strategies for the next 7 semesters?
Stay-at-home orders, social distancing, even for all the right reasons, have thrown me into a funk. Daily news and updates are all too accessible. A dreaded drone of bad news. Numbers of cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise, and the economic impact for many is devastating. Hurricane season has begun. Worst of all, the deep roots of racism in our country have become exposed again in the horrific deaths of George Floyd, and others, at the hands of those who are supposed to protect our citizens. And yet, I am confident that in this season of “time out,” there is opportunity for transformation.
God always uses such times of struggle to introduce opportunity, and to transform us. Moses led the Israelites for 40 years in a wilderness. Leaving a life of misery and bondage in Egypt, the people were in an unfamiliar territory, and nothing was easy. Finally, God showed Moses the land his people were to inhabit, and yet, the promise of freedom and abundance in that land was eclipsed by the fear of the unknown. Moses said to his successor, Joshua, these words:
Read: Deuteronomy 31:8
“Be strong and courageous. The Lord goes before you and will be with you; [the Lord] will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Reflect: From chaos to creation, with just a word, God put beauty, energy and life sustaining systems in place, an abundance of everything needed. What can God bring forth from the chaos of 2020? What will be better after this season of life apart? How will we be better for our journey from darkness to light?
Take Action: God uses our times of struggle and solitude to strengthen us and to transform us, if we allow God access to our hearts and minds. In the words of Trina Paulus, “If I have inside me the stuff to make cocoons, maybe the stuff of butterflies is there, too.” (Hope for the Flowers) Twenty five people joined a conversation about confronting our own racism, pledging to read a book and look for ways to grow in understanding our complicity in the systems that continue to oppress people of color. A young artist is meeting with fellow artists and community leaders to propose names of historical figures whose images might replace the confederate statues that have been removed. How will you be strong and courageous, trusting that God goes before you into new expressions of love and hope?
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to the Rev. Carol W. Goehring for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements.
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