In times of crisis, all the rules change. Before, we might have stuck to routine, but crisis demands our full attention. We are forced to break habits, get out of the comfort zone of everyday life, and engage with a situation that will not be deferred.
There is a sense of reality and aliveness in these times. Even when what we are experiencing is terrifying and painful, in times of crisis we know in our bones that the present moment really matters, and that our decisions make a difference. While crisis is not necessarily redemptive, it is always full of potential for transformation.
The early church lived in such a time of immediacy. When Jesus came to the seashore and called his first disciples, he invited them out of the safety of the family business and into a life of adventure, to be about his Father’s business. When he was raised from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the new community, all the old patterns broke down: people sold what they had and shared their resources; women and men worked side by side to inaugurate a new reality that they had never imagined possible before. Soon, thousands of Spirit-filled disciples made their way throughout the ancient world, sharing the good news of God’s victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus.
I have experienced such times of crisis in my own life. I remember the call to ministry that ripped me out of my holding-pattern job at a bank and sent me off to study in Indiana. I had no idea where my life was headed, but I had a strong sense that God was in control. I remember the spring that I lived in the Renaissance House community, living and breaking bread with the poorest of the poor, keeping an intense discipline of community prayer, and gathering resources from the trash heap of empire. I remember those days in the fall of 2011 when it seemed like anything could happen. The world was changing, and I was able to participate in a dramatic shift in public consciousness.
God has felt most real and present in my life in these unexpected moments. The movement of the Spirit has been palpable, her guidance unmistakable. Jesus is present with us when we lose control.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone off the deep end. I’ve had stresses and challenges, of course; there have been times when I’ve not been sure how I’d make it through a particular obstacle. But I haven’t often felt the radical newness that comes with surrendering past, present and future to the control of the sovereign Lord. I have hunkered down in routine, busied myself with good activities, given myself a safe pattern to live in.
But I don’t feel safe. I often feel anxious. I yearn and thirst. I feel the sense of divine immanence nudging me to once again drop all of my cobbled safety nets and walk the tightrope in confidence. Do I have the desperate courage necessary to trust God to catch me when I fall? Am I willing to have my life broken open once again, transformed in ways that terrify me? Am I ready to live in a space of divine crisis?
It is only in surrendering my own safety, the false systems of control that I construct for myself, that I can hope to experience the true freedom of the gospel. It is a rest that I can enter only when I am ready to lay down my own works and allow God to guide me in directions I never saw coming.
So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience… Hebrews 4:9-11a