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Friday, March 20, 2020

Within Four Walls



I have drawn a black line through April. Days to have been spent in D.C. at meetings, days to have been spent sight-seeing in the Pacific, regular days of worship and classes and workouts, all stretch before me now as blanks. You probably have some black lines and some blanks to reckon with, too. We’ll all be getting to know our own walls a little better in the next few weeks. If being agoraphobic qualifies me to speak on confinement, I have a few encouragements for communing without community.

Enchantment requires time and attention. In anxious days, the soul struggles to settle into story. But if we can shut out the news feeds, we may find an unprecedented opportunity to dust off dormant imaginations. What have you never had time to learn, study, enjoy, reread, marvel at? The tyranny of the urgent is broken. Suddenly the gift of time, in the ugliest of garbs, has been handed to many. We people of the Book often lack the hours to be people of books. Perhaps the days of lockdown offer us precious time to reenchant ourselves with beauty and story and truth.

Story feeds restless minds. The children are restless. We have a captive audience, like it or not. Draw their minds into action while they’re stuck in the house with stories of adventure and sacrifice and heroism, read aloud. Do all the voices if you can. If this isn’t a family habit and you fear a lukewarm reception, start small, but pack a punch. Make some cocoa, light a fire or some candles, and read “The Cremation of Sam McGee” in low, spooky tones. Short and swashbuckling, Call It Courage is good by a window, better in the yard, best in a treehouse.

Story allays our fears and cushions our grief. Story can shrink us down to size. Even a dwindling coffee supply or rationed toilet paper can feel daunting, and uncertainty can overwhelm. Story enters into fear and pain and gives words to sorrow. Heroes, those who really lived, and those imagination brought to life, make us brave. They stand on their own precipices and remind us that we are not alone on ours.      

The greatest story reassures us of victory. All the good stories echo back the first story. Imbibe them all, but more than ever, read the original, the story of God and his people. It ends well. Pray the Psalms alone in your room as David prayed them in the cave of Adullam. Around your own dinner table, sing the hymns that express your current suffering in the hopeful words of the church triumphant.  

Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do.


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