03.21.20 – In the Midst of the Mess

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

It is a frightening and uncertain time. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with cities and even entire countries shutting down. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “What is going to happen next?” For many people, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is the hardest thing to handle. We don’t know exactly how we will be impacted or how bad things might get.

This widespread uncertainty is partly rooted in the realization that our cultural clock has been reset, if not broken. To curtail COVID-19’s spread, our government and institutions are calling off the community activities by which we measure time. It is as if the month of March – and, so far, a good part of April – has been canceled or at least postponed.

As an employee of our local school district and with our schools being closed, I am home with Caroline. Our routines have changed. I am telecommuting and she is engaged in digital learning. Her recreational soccer season is on hold and the pool I swim in several times a week is closed. However, we both continue to exercise. She is riding her bike, jumping on the neighbor’s trampoline, and walking Skye. I, on the other hand, have returned to my first love – running. I run every day which means I listen to music everyday as well. I have created a new playlist called Palm Sunday/Easter. I listen to it on every single run each and every day. As a result, I quickly developed a favorite song on my self-created playlist.

The song is entitled, “The God Who Sees” and is a modern-day oratorio written by Kathie Lee Gifford and Nicole C. Mullens. The oratorio tells the stories of Hagar, Ruth, David, and Mary Magdalene. As the lyrics of this song convey through each of their stories, God is always there – in the desert, in the wilderness, and even in the garden. This song reminds me that God is always watching and forever present whether we are afraid, uncertain, or worried.

This aspect of God’s nature may not be as important on a day when our banners are waving and the crowds are cheering and life is going as we had planned. In the seasons when we feel secure and celebrated and surrounded, God can easily become just another set of eyes in the bleachers. But when we’re running for our lives or wandering through the wilderness of isolation, fear, or despair – the discovery that God is always watching is worth everything. Trust me, there is a God who sees us amidst the messiness of life – whether we are in the middle of a pandemic, dealing with the death of a loved one, confronted by a dreaded medical diagnosis, dealing with loss of a job, or struggling with worry and uncertainty.

This past week while running and listening to my most favorite song on my current playlist, “The God Who Sees,” I was reminded of something that happened in mid-January of 2018 as we left the hospital for what I thought was the last time as we thought we were going to be able to manage Grace’s end-of-life care at our home. In the lobby of Grace’s treating hospital is a player piano. As my mom and Grace and I walked past that player piano toward the parking garage, I heard a familiar song. It was familiar because it happened to be the song that I softly played on a CD player in the girls’ nursery as I rocked them back to sleep after they woke up in the middle of the night. The song is a classic so I am certain most of you are familiar with it – the song is “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

What is the life lesson here? I guess for me the lesson to remember is that even when you are walking through a children’s hospital lobby with your terminally ill child, even when you are in the midst of unspeakable sorrow, even when you are afraid and feel alone, and even when you are in the middle of a pandemic, God is always with you. You always have someone watching over you.

We may not know what awaits us tomorrow as it relates to this pandemic. But this is what I do know:

God is bigger than this.
God is intimately aware of all of this.
God is more than prepared to love all of us throughout this.
God will use us if we let Him.
Our country is uniquely and masterfully set up to survive and withstand this.
In tough times like these we have a great opportunity to love others so let’s focus on that.

Many people have asked me this week what will become of The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2020. I have simply told them to stay tuned. You might be able to cancel school, prom, graduations, parades, golf tournaments, and basketball seasons. But there is one thing that you can never cancel and that is hope. Hope has no finish line.

I will be the Rock of your salvation
I’ll hold you up by the strength of My right hand
And the power of My Spirit
Will free you from all fear
In the hour of your deepest need
You’ll find that I am near
I am here

And I will be a ring of fire around you
And I will be the glory in your midst
And the power of My presence
Will bring you to your knees
Then I will lift you up again
For I’m the God who sees
(The God Who Sees)

PS – Every time I listen to this song – which is every day, I hear it as if the Mt Bethel UMC choir is singing it in my air pods as I run down Sandy Plains Road. Hint hint…wouldn’t this be a perfect anthem for them to sing when we all gather back together in the sanctuary?

Here is the video of the song: The God Who Sees

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