I will never forget the based-on-a-true-story movie, The Impossible, about a family who, while vacationing in a paradise resort in Thailand, was hit by the 2004 tsunami. The scene that grips me most is when Naomi Watts is reading on a lounge chair and suddenly sensing something is not right. That something terribly powerful is upon her. Her husband and two of her sons are in the pool when the ocean erupts towards them with waves towering as high as their hotel.
There are moments when we know something terrible is upon us, when we feel just how vulnerable we are. We are in such a moment right now. For me, the coronavirus has been much like that movie scene. We see something coming and are suddenly made helpless and vulnerable. And yet the virus, unlike the physical force of a tsunami, can be subtle, insidious and slippery. It is as if the gestapo has broken into our life-rhythms and has taken us hostage in our own homes—which is also where our haunting memories from our past, unpredictable homes often live.
What do you do with that? What do you do when, as the Psalmist says, “He makes me lie down”? I purposely leave out “green pastures” since these words can create a picture of rest and serenity. Our season now feels like anything but green pastures, and yet we are being forced to “lie down” as we change our normal lifestyle. In our individualistic Western mentality, who wants to be “made” to do anything?
I wrestle with understanding this mysterious God who seems to be restraining us to our homes and drudging up past traumas and terrors.
For me, this virus has disrupted much beyond the need to simply shop less often and use a wipe on every doorknob. For me, this sheltering has worked like a garlic press, forcing a pile of unprocessed grief to squeeze its way out, with little other choice. Much of what is arising in me as God makes me lie down feels like very young grief. Uncertainty came my way and taught my young self that the world as I knew it was not safe. Some memories are clear. Some memories are implicit and reminiscent of the insecurity caused by today’s virus.
I have also been profoundly reminded of my fragility and how desperately I need others. It has stunned me, and I find myself weeping at inopportune moments with little understanding or watching the news as if I’m connected to people I have never met.
The biggest thing I am learning in the midst of this tsunami is that life is uncertain. Being made to lie down right now means finding a place to quiet my hunkered-down heart, which is much like a wild, feral kitten in her first home. Because she is so accustomed to the streets, she does not yet know that she is safe in her new, enclosed surroundings. My claws of survival are extended, often hurting people who care for me. Trauma often feels like terror.
So, I lie down. Partly because I have no choice, partly because I have been stripped of my usual ways of coping, but mostly because I am exhausted. I am slowly learning to cooperate, trusting the mysterious One who makes me lie down.
Natalie Sum comes alive and sees the face of Jesus when listening to the stories of others and coming alongside small businesses. She thrives by facilitating groups, implementing initiatives, or advocating for others. Natalie resides in Schaumburg with her wife, Amy. She is currently working on her Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling and has received a Training Certificate in Trauma Care through The Allender Center at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Natalie loves cruising on her bike, basking in God’s creation, and developing curriculum. You can read more at NatalieSumResources.com