There’s something about the whole world choosing together to be alone.
Like a kind of permission, or a moment of tag—“It” has finally caught up to you after you tried running so far and so long, and now, tired and exhausted, you have a chance to turn and accept what is, to become It, to keep playing this game, no longer so preoccupied with staying out of everyone else’s reach.
I wake to the still morning, creeping from bed to piping hot coffee that I make too strong and swirl with more than my fair share of cream.
These quarantine days begin with a rhythm: grinding the beans, preparing the pot, pushing the button, and lighting the cinnamon spice cookie candle. It’s a cadence, bringing my heart comfort for a day that will confront me through familiar routines and lack of distraction.
Once the coffee maker sends out its alert, I prepare my mug, wrap myself in a blanket, and go snuggle near the candle to read.
Today, sunlight dresses all the surrounding brick buildings in gold. I can see the light through a sweet little window from here on my couch. I can see the dark shadows that make the light bright. I can see all of it is good.
I crack open the pages of Rachel Held Evans Inspired. I’ve had this little book on my shelf for nearly a year now and not opened its pages. Rachel’s unexpected death last May felt overwhelming and tragic, even though I didn’t have a personal relationship her. I haven’t been ready this year to read her words or to miss her prophetic voice. But during this irrational season, Rachel feels right, the exact voice needed for this moment. She begins,
“Once upon a time, there lived a girl with a magic book…”
Just a few pages in and I stop, surprised to find my eyes stinging with the hint of tears.
The magic book Rachel describes is a book I know well. It’s also a book I’ve limited my contact with this year, and the story of why still hurts.
This year, I have not known how to be with those who call themselves God’s people.
A seminarian, pastor’s kid, and lifelong church-goer, the disconnect has felt unsettling to say the least. Steeples, praise songs, and sermons have been a steady presence in my life. Problematic? Broken? Deeply flawed? Of course, the church has been all of these things too, but for the most part, I have found room for the tension within myself with a central thread of truth: “Look at all of the good the church brings into the world. Look at the way she cares for the hurting and brings the hope of new life.”
But this year, that truth shattered. Because this year, I got wounded and the church did not feel like a place of care; it felt like a place of abandonment. The journey I’ve walked in the last 10 months has altered the course of relationship with friends, professors, church communities, and God himself.
Faith has been a fight, one that has not always left me sure how to read the Bible. Often its words have felt burdened with relationships now changed and religion grown warped and barbed. Sitting with God has hurt. “How do I even unpack for You all that it feels like I have lost? How do I decide whether I want to scream at You or sob in Your arms?”
Here with Rachel, here in the quiet of quarantine, it all catches up with me. I am reminded that this unfolding story of resurrection has not stopped just because I put the book down for a while. I am reminded that the God who flooded the whole earth for the sake of a new beginning might have been willing to flood my whole world as well. And I can call Him wicked, or I can embrace these new depths. For the Bible tells us that after 40 days and 40 nights, and after a time of waiting, the waters will recede. They will not swallow us. They will not swallow me.
And this, I think, is the hope of quarantine.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 30 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.
Oh, Katy, how I soaked this in this morning. Your writing is so rich, so readable, so relatable for me. Thank you for writing this. The line, ” I am reminded that the God who flooded the whole earth for the sake of a new beginning might have been willing to flood my whole world as well,” spoke especially deeply to me. Yes! He floods our lives and we feel like we’re drowning – and yet, perhaps the flooding is meant for cleansing our lives of things that need to be exposed and washed away. You’ve given me much to think about today. I’m toasting you this morning with my ” too strong” coffee that I “swirl with more than my fair share of cream.” Blessings to you Ms.Katy.
I agree, Barbara. 40 days of flood–40 days of cleansing. What a lovely image, Katy. thank you so much for this piece.
Thank you for reading, Madeline!
Thank you so much, Barbra. Raising my mug to you as well, across the distance and waters. With love, Katy
Thank you so much, Barbra. Raising my mug to you as well, across the miles and the waters. Love to you, Katy
Thank you for sharing your raw and beautiful heart that holds a defiant HOPE that will not be swallowed up. I hear your pain and see the beauty of your life giving rhythms. As you embrace this season of quiet may you be cradled in the arms of love and healed in those deepest places of betrayal and loss ☀️🙏🏼💗
Thank you, Jean. Such beautiful words of blessing and care. Choosing to let those wash over me today.
I love the way this ends, with a burst of energy into the quiet space, a sudden insight that changes the paradigm. I pray that the end of this period of wounding and healing will come in the same way for you. Thank you for a rich and vivid start to yet another quiet quarantine morning…
Oh, thank you, Claudia. The moment in Scripture took my breath away this past week…what a perfect expression of what feels deeply true in this season. Wishing you peace and hope as we start our search for olive branches 😉
Your writing brought me into that room with you. I especially loved this, “I am reminded that this unfolding story of resurrection has not stopped just because I put the book down for a while.” I’m so grateful that it’s not about my efforts. The waters will recede and God will be with us still – I needed that today. Thank you, my friend. Peace to you.
Thank you, friend. And for holding the space with me last night. I too am so glad it does not rely on me. Peace to you as well.
This was such an honest and true article. I am sure many can relate to this. thank you! Betsy Fowler
That book plunged me into a sea of Honesty about my complex journey with church. Still swimming, still trying to get my head up for a breath.
Thank you Katy.
They will not swallow you beautiful friend. Thank you for writing. Here with you in the quiet. Love you, B
You are so gifted. Your writing draws me into your story and I feel as though I am walking with you.
“This year I have not know how to be with those who call themselves Gods people”. This. No words have ever been more true for me in this season. My doubts and questions have been met with pitiful looks for my “lack” of faith and empty promises to pray for me. Yet this defiance to wonder and find the magic of Jesus feels good and true in my body
I love seeing the kindness towards yourself as you tell the truth despite your deep religious background. To wonder with curiosity and not judgment is an act of defiance.
I just started this book a week ago also. It is so good. I have begun to dismantle my faith over this last year and it is deeply painful and terrifying. All of the people in church are not just community, they are your family. It is such a deep loss when that no longer feels familiar and good. I am so sorry for the pain this uproar has brought up for you.
I resonate with so much that you are describing. Thank you for your courage and boldness to share them. You are a gift.
stunning, relevant. in a season filled with grief i am comforted in this: “And I can call Him wicked, or I can embrace these new depths.” thank you