Fifteen years in China came to a close last summer when our family moved back to America. Life in China brought daily disruptions, from no water or electricity, to the city being shut down for a government summit. There were days when the landlord threatened to send the mafia and other days where immigration officials interrogated our family’s visa. Living in the heavy clothes of constant transition was exhausting, but it did prepare us for this.

Today, in America, we all find ourselves in some form of lockdown. Days scroll through our lives like those mindless Instagram minutes. I dismiss the notifications of basketball games and NHS inductions once planned and hoped for. Oddly, I find our family meeting these losses with a casualness that, while helpful now, will most likely need therapy in the future. Disruption became a way of life, and this feels no different.

We often ask the Lord, “What do you want from me today?” But in reality, we have our hands on the steering wheel of what that means. Our calendars are full, and our lives are frantic. Eventually, we stop asking the question, because we think we know what he wants from us, and It involves dropping our daughter at soccer practice and finishing our son’s diorama.

But, when our tables are tossed abruptly over, we are given the gift of genuinely asking what the Lord wants from our today. Constant change can be unnerving, and it can be freeing. 

Freeing because it allows our hearts to expect the Lord to guide our minutes. If we have a sense of control over our days, we don’t surrender the minutes because those are already allotted to something else. The gust of panic topples people because there are just so many unknowns right now, and we like the known. We love the information available to us. If we all knew this would be over on June 7th, I think people would settle in a bit. But we don’t know. If we knew there was a vaccine coming on May 16th, we would breathe a little easier. But we don’t know.

All these unknowns are hard for a culture that prides itself on information and resources. Panic doesn’t need to be the guide through this. The Lord walks us through valleys vulnerable with potential dangers. There’s a difference between fear and vulnerability. Fear leads us to paralysis or fight. Vulnerability can lead us to praise and faith.

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Walking through “a valley of the shadow of death” brings us to vulnerable positioning. To be left in a valley is to be in a position of weakness. It can also be a position of awareness, because you realize the attack could be imminent. The Lord’s “rod and staff” beckons us to keep walking and not be rendered helpless, despite the dangers. A “shadow of death” is deep darkness and consumed with unknowns. We cannot see in it nor through it. Yet the Lord asks us to not fear. He urges us to keep walking. He sees the other side of this valley. His guidance offers us a way through it that involves walking one foot in front of the other and trusting his voice when things get blindingly dark.

In the darkness of tomorrow, we have no choice but to follow the rod and staff that is two steps ahead.  Let us allow this disruption to make us aware, not afraid. 

May we all use this as training to live our lives with more expectancy of the Lord and less sufficiency in ourselves. We can meet today with our hands authentically open to the Lord’s leading and provision. But, if we are too busy nursing our panic, we will miss all of this. We will come out the other side of this more fearful and cynical than before. The choice is ours. There is a freedom offered to us in following our shepherd around the next corner and through the next valley. We’ve been given a gift of empty calendars.

In the calendar of so many unknowns, the page we need to flip is one that asks God, “What do you want from me today?”