I am afraid

Last night, a writing prompt was given to a lovely group of sisters with whom I was virtually gathering.  For a moment or so, we were to write about fear. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, but I was soon to find out.  As a single woman, living alone, I live a life of relative peace in my home which can be sweet and yet at times, it can also be lonely. I had been unusually lonely yesterday.  I began writing from the prompt and what came next surprised even me.

I am afraid…that I will disappear.

Out it came, just like that.  I am afraid that I will disappear. It stopped me short. Then more words came and suddenly, all the ways I had been trying to make myself visible during the last solitary week since my world began shutting down came flooding into my awareness.

I sent photos to my kids, to my friends, to my social media feeds. I asked for video conferencing instead of phone calls with friends and family.  I worked and worked and worked, more than the 40 hours asked for. I waved broadly to neighbors while walking the dogs. Wanting to be seen. Wanting to ensure that I still take up space and that somebody noticed.

I am afraid that I will disappear, and when this whole thing is over, my connections will be gone. I will not have mattered. None of all that I have done or been will have mattered. My efforts up until this time will not have mattered. I will have to start all over if I want to matter again.

I am afraid that I will disappear. All the doing, the being seen, all the effort. Is this really what makes me matter? I am smart enough to say, “no,” yet how do I attend to a reality that this is so ingrained it turns into such a fear? Where was Jesus in this? I wondered this as I restlessly drifted off to sleep in the middle of creating a mental to-do list for the next day.

It sounds dramatic, I know. But this is a pandemic. Everything has changed and dramatic times might just call for dramatic wonderings. Is this what people fear at the end of life? Is this what it feels like to be the tired man with the sign who stands on the corner? Or the person sitting alone at the bar? Are they afraid of disappearing? Maybe not, yet this is sometimes what it feels like to live alone during desperate times.

I woke melancholic and opened my devotional for March 23, 2020, the words of Psalm 23 and John 3 met me.  Bless God.  I blessed God for the author who chose these scripture passages for this specific date so many years ago. The author had no idea why they would be important to a single woman in quarantine years later. I blessed God because these words from the book that we love, from the God who first loved us spoke that I mattered and could not disappear.  “You cannot disappear because I see you. You cannot disappear because I say you matter.”

The words my heart so needed to hear spilled out of from those verses.

“You cannot disappear because it is I who see you. It is I who sets your worth. You cannot do enough, be enough, or connect enough to matter more. You cannot image enough, write enough, contribute enough to matter more. You are precious because I say so. I shepherd you, I refresh you, I am with you. I have set a table for you, I have anointed you, I follow you with my goodness and love. You lack nothing. I see you and you matter just as you are.

Dear beloved one, I sent Jesus for you. And not only for you, but so that you might show the world who I am, because they need to know too. Yet, if you never do another thing or never fall within the notice of another human, you are still seen and precious to Me. You cannot disappear from my gaze. I have turned my face toward you.”

Oh, sweet Jesus.  Thank you for showing up just then. You know I am still afraid, but I no longer fear disappearing.  You noticed and I have been seen.

Friends, the same is true for you.

No matter how lonely you get, no matter how sick you get, no matter how sad you get, no matter how frustrated you get, no matter how convoluted your life, you matter to the One Who Sees.

May we speak this truth again and again to each other until the new heaven and earth appear. Lord knows, it may take that long to believe it.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Jill English is an avid encourager of humans and lover of words.  She is most at home out-of-doors, and in particular, while walking any beach.  Her most magical moments involve being Grammy to two remarkable grandchildren, and Mom to their lucky parents.  As a discerner of call in higher theological education, her favorite conversations involve connecting the sacred dots of every-day life and faith. Jill lives in Grand Rapids, MI with two small, elderly pups.