The One Presence We Need

Dear Heavenly Father, these are desperate times. When crises happen, we find solace and comfort in the presence of others—they hug and hold us, they remind us of their love and caring, they provide for us a tangible symbol of your presence. But now, that source of comfort has been denied. Not only is touch forbidden, but we’re not even able to find comfort in the mere presence of others.

The act of quarantine is nothing new; treatment of diseases through isolation was prevalent in Biblical times. Various diseases forced victims into a life apart from others: for instance leprosy, syphilis, and smallpox. Though no one else would touch these people, Jesus touched them. He went to them, sought them out, and healed them with his touch.

And now we too find ourselves separate, apart from one another. Forced to live lives with as little human contact as possible, we feel apart, drifting. So reliant on others are we that our fingers type out text messages and emails or dial phone numbers, all in an attempt to connect. It seems almost beyond belief that something as microscopic as this virus can have such an impact on the planet—that it can render impossible the very vaccination we seek—the touch of others.

What will we do with our time? Television is an endless repetition of the virus damage; after watching for a short time the number of people infected, the lives lost, the shredding of our stock system and governmental breakdown, we feel overwhelmed. Life is hopeless—to leave our doors, to touch others, to take the sacrament—all these are beyond our reach.

Where is our God in all of this turmoil? Why isn’t he here protecting his own? Making our lives easier? Why would He permit something as devastating as this to take place?

When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he asked repeatedly for his disciples to watch with him, to give him the comfort of their presence, to make him feel connected, not alone. But the text makes it quite clear; no matter how often or with such urgency Jesus asked for their nearness—they fell asleep. They failed him. Why is this scene so explicit? Because Jesus needed to face God alone—to confront him and ask for relief from what lay ahead, to ask his Father if he could be spared. But what would take place was in God’s hands, not the hands of Jesus. When given that realization, Jesus found peace. He rose from his prayer and began the sequence of events that would lead directly, in less than 24 hours, to his crucifixion.

These hours ahead of us, void of most human contact, force us into this same conversation. We are at the will of God, and he has given us the time and the opportunity to be in dialogue with him. We pray together as a congregation, but now is the time for personal prayer. Time to speak with God as Jesus did in the Garden, to ask for our safety and the safety of those we love, but to do so with the awareness of God’s power and presence. He promised his Son that he would bring ultimate good out of loss.

And we see this today—people sharing, medical staff putting their lives on hold in the interests of others, those who provide medications and gas and food and public safety—those who risk their lives so we may continue our lives with as little interference as possible. We are reminded of the goodness humans can draw upon in an emergency.

God has not died of the corona virus. He is not in quarantine. He is alive and well, waiting for us to draw closer, to read our Bibles for comfort and peace, to speak with him in personal honesty and intensity. Forget the rote prayers we can speak by heart, this is the opportunity for stark and revealing prayers that allow us to find him in a new way, to discover we can speak with God openly and without fear. “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of time.” This is not the end of time, but this is a time when God is with us. Open your heart and pray—now is the time to that find his presence is the only presence we need.

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