As we enter another month of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching our communities, I hear so many of us struggling with this suspended time. A time when nothing is ordinary. I heard someone say this is a time during which all the rules and boxes are broken. A time when we must navigate unchartered waters.
This suspended time is weighty with the expectation that the worse is yet to come. This time during which people die from “normal” causes, heart attacks and journeys through cancer. This time when new babies are born. And this time when we must grieve and celebrate and anticipate and worry apart from our usual communities of support.
We know that throughout history, human beings have experienced periods of time with similar disruptions to life as usual. Even though we have, perhaps, never experienced it on the same global scale, people have wrestled with similar challenges and opportunities.
And we know that people of faith have wrestled with God’s presence and influence amid such times. We know, because we have their songs as witness to their lament and longing. We know because we can today read and share their insights of God’s love recorded in books, such as Psalms.
Inspired by the laments of old, I offer this prayer during this pandemic time. May God hear our cries and endure our rage and grief and hold us during the long nights and endless shifts of despair.
A Lament Psalm for Pandemic TimesYou who knit us together in our mother’s womb and nurtured us in community— hear our cries!You have bound us to the physical laws, dependent on creation.You have entwined our lives with the lives of those who have gone beforeand with those who daily feel the Earth beneath our feet.And yet, we are surprised by this reality of our common humanity.As this microscopic virus indiscriminately circles and infects those who inhabit the entire globe,we discover in profound ways this common vulnerability anew:life is fragile and beyond our control.Those who have statistical glimpses of what is yet to come, tell us to disperse.Separate yourselves one from another!This is the way to slow the microscopic invader!And in separating we must sacrifice the presence of the people we loveand the community that unites us.And our hearts grieve.We sacrifice opportunities to experience the joy of a long-awaited concertor the taste of a meal prepared by the local chef.We miss the immediate collaboration of coworkersand the chorus of voices gathering in congregational singing.New rituals must be created to celebrate birthdays and holy seasons.And our heads search to create new opportunities, even in this time.The very thing that we must do to protect ourselves and othersis the same thing that threatens to pull us apart.Our fear is that in this separation, we will be led only to know loneliness and despair,tearing apart the fabric of community itself.And our souls yearn to be connected.In the moments when we need to hear words of hope and encouragement from others,we must do so using technology from much distance.We yearn for touch — for a handshake or hug — and we must refrain.We can’t sit too near. We mustn’t step too close.Our awareness of 6 feet distances is heightened at every turn.We are aware of those who are called to minister those who are ill and in pain,placing their own fragile lives in places of risk.We hear of their struggle to provide relief to so many,too many for even the places of healing to hold.And we weep with them,aware of the feeling of powerlessness in the face of overwhelming need.How long, O God, how long?How long will we have to endure the coming worsening of this situation?You, who knit us together in our mother’s womb,return to us in this time of isolation in the places where we find shelter today.We need to feel your presence even amid despair.Surround us with the protective support of your love —a cocoon preparing us for the time when we will enter the world again —To be reborn in the glory of reunionas we meet our sisters and brothers once again in the fleshand embark on shaping a new normal, whatever that will be.All earth is waiting for that day.How long, O God, How long?Amen.