March 29, 2020 • De Pree Journal
*This post is part of De Pree Center’s Finding Our Bearings in a Crashing Economy series.
Inés Velasquez-McBryde, is a church planter, chaplain at Fuller and Life for Leaders contributor. If you’ve read any of Inés’ devotions, you know that her words are like a salve for the soul. So, it’s my honor to share some of her thoughts with you today.
Michaela: Inés I’ve talked with a lot of people in the last few weeks who are reeling. I’ve tried to capture all that I’ve heard into some different scenarios. Some business owners are going to lose their business or have to lay people off. Managers are trying to figure out how to cut costs and deal with people’s fears. Work is drying up for freelancers and the systems for how so much of us engage are moving online. Will you help those of us who are motivated by our faith to respond well in this time, get our bearings?
Inés: Psalm 91 comes to mind. Verses 1-2 say this,
1“You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
In 1988 Hurricane Joan was the most powerful storm that had hit Nicaragua in its history. 135 mph winds drove the blinding rain and swelled the seas to 15-foot waves that hit our eastern shores with fury. In one of the largest towns in the east coast, 95% of the houses were destroyed. As the storm howled and made its way west towards the capital of Managua, our family huddled close and braced for impact. At one point, even the radio waves went dead and we did not know what to expect, except the worst.
In the middle of our living room, steady on her rocking chair and surrounded by her eight grandchildren at her feet, my grandmother held a flashlight to her Bible as she read Psalm 91:1, “El que habita al abrigo del Altísimo, morará bajo la sombra del omnipotente…” As we heard the pounding rain outside our windows and waited for the eye of the storm, the matriarch in our family sat calm and collected.
How does a leader stay calm and collected when the worst is yet to come?
As I sat watching the news on this April 1, 2020, in Monrovia, California, all I heard was that we have not even reached the apex of this COVID-19 pandemic. The eye of this storm has not even arrived. The worst is yet to come. The news feels like hurricane winds to our saturated souls. The anxiety surrounding going to the store—where we find bare shelves and leave without your basic necessities—comes crashing at our body in waves. The rising number of infections and deaths on a global scale cut at the soul of our common humanity. Our city is under a shelter-in-place order. Businesses closing. Friends and family filing for unemployment. Our global family is in deep grief.
Michaela: I’ve felt those crashing waves of anxiety. It’s terrifying to think the worst has yet to come. The image of your grandma is so powerful. She hears the rain outside. She knows in her gut the storm is coming. She knows it will be bad. Yet, she stays calm for her people. How do we be like your Grandma?
Inés: How does a leader stay calm and collected before the eye of the storm?
I sat with some powerhouse pastoral leaders on a conference call last night as we walked through a checklist of how to provide non-anxious leadership in our churches and communities in times of crisis. Two words reminded me of my grandmother on that hurricane night: Courageous and Centered. We have no control over the circumstances. We only have control over how we react to the hurricane. Now, the call to courage and centeredness does not deny the fears and anxieties that have not run out on the shelves of our souls. However, dwelling in the shelter of the most high takes a whole new meaning when faced with the fears that drove our city’s lockdown. When anxieties threaten to overtake us, my grandmother the psalmist finds refuge in the shadow of the almighty. When the circumstances are crippling, how do you access courage as a leader in your home, workplaces and communities? When the winds threaten to uproot your health and livelihood, how do you stay centered as a business owner?
Friends, we have never walked this painful path before. We do not have all the answers. So take shelter. In God’s presence there we find courage. We cannot change our challenging circumstances overnight. So abide in the shadow. There we find a new grounded center for our ever-changing reality. Daily manna. Grace for today. Wisdom that seems to come in droplets even as we suffer from decision-fatigue. A refuge from the storm. Allow the pain to make you pause. Acknowledge your emotions. Assess your soul. Adjust your center. Many things are out of our control. The constant is God’s good character in the midst of the storm. God, you are our only refuge, the only one in whom we can trust! All other ground is sinking sand.
Take heart. Have courage. We are in this together. You are not alone.
Michaela: I really appreciate the wisdom to courageous and centered. How can we do that on a really practical level?
Inés: Self-care is a necessity to not only survive, but thrive! Listen to your body and soul. Eat. Sleep. Drink water. Take daily walks to breathe fresh air. Limit social media and news to 1-2 credible sources to 1-2 times a day. Do not isolate emotionally or spiritually (yes to social distancing though as a social responsibility!). Call or text friends. Start a gratitude journal and write down the small and big things that you are thankful for.
Think about the daily spiritual practices can you do that help you name and release fears, anxieties, worries. Think about what you can do differently this week to access courage from God and re-center yourself.
Michaela: Wise words, friend.
A Prayer for Taking Shelter: We invite you to pray this prayer as a way to access God’s courage and stay calm when the worst is yet to come.
Oh God, you who are the healer of our bodies and healer of the nations, we cry out to you! Can you hear us? Your children all over the world are suffering. Darkness and destruction threaten to consume our bodies, souls and communities. Hear our cries for mercy, oh healer. Save us, rescue us, restore us. We pray for our homes, our workplaces, our communities. We pray for the old, the young, the weak, the strong, the high-risk, those in the front lines tending to the sick, for government leaders of all nations, for healthcare workers and grocery store workers, for miraculous provision of all that is scarce and critical. God, we need you. We take shelter in the shadow of your wings. Hold unto us even as we barely are hanging on to you. Grant us healing and restoration for our global family. Amen.