Finding Peace and Purpose - Kristina J. Meyer
For those of you who don’t know me well, I moved to New Orleans in August as part of a volunteer year. I live in a house as part of an intentional community among the volunteers. In mid-March, two of my housemates left to go home and the rest of us settled in for self-isolation.
Shortly afterwards, a mentor challenged me to write a Biblical response to the global pandemic. As I searched through my Bible, trying to find inspiration, I landed on Psalm 23. The next day, Izabela sang Psalm 23 for worship. The next day my university chaplain posted about Psalm 23. Clearly, this was God speaking.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Psalm 23, ESV, emphasis mine)
Last November, I had trouble falling asleep each evening. My mind would spin with the events of the day and fill with anxieties for the next day. My therapist taught me a narrative so that I could calm myself down by focusing on relaxing my body, limb by limb. It works so well that I rarely even got to the end because I was already asleep.
I wondered to myself if memorizing scripture would have the same effect. What if I repeat a narrative of God’s peace each night as I fall asleep? So, I memorized Psalm 23.
Reciting a passage required too much concentration to help me fall asleep, but it did calm me in rush hour traffic on my way to work. It reminded me that though my job is full of chaos, my soul can still be calm; though my job can be discouraging, God’s goodness is filling my life. It re-centered my mornings on the truth of God to quiet the pandemonium of the world.
This week, I received notice that I may return to work, to Eden House. I’m excited! The wrap-around services necessary to the recovery of survivors of human trafficking are being significantly curtailed in ways that jeopardize their health, safety, and recovery. I am needed to support our residents and my coworkers. I’m also nervous! Going back to work comes with health risks for my housemates and me, a huge learning curve as I navigate working during quarantine, alongside many other uncertainties.
Psalm 23 reminds me that my peace does not depend on the external realities of the world. God restores my soul when I’m anxious about my health and the stress of work. God restores my soul when my heart is breaking for those whose housing, income, food, and health are all uncertain due to COVID-19 and our government’s response to the pandemic.
Even as we walk through this global pandemic with the shadow of death cast over every choice we make, God is with us. God’s love can be seen in the way that neighbors are taking care of each other and creative responses to the unique challenges posed by quarantine.
We as a church have been anointed by God to be in service to our community. Canal Street Church is living into that by providing medicines and other hygiene products to the community. I am going back to work so that I can faithfully serve those who God has called me to.
When I look, I can easily identify goodness and mercy. The weather has been beautiful and the parks are still open. My support networks are all still active. Despite all the fear and injustice that are present in the world, goodness and mercy are following me.
In this time of COVID-19, I’m hyper-aware of injustice; marginalized people in society are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. I’m filled with anger and anxiety at a societal level and I’m filled with uncertainty and despair at an individual level. The chaos and disappointments sometimes feel like too much to bear.
Psalm 23 provides me with peace, purpose, and hope as it refocuses my spirit on God’s truth.
Kristina J. Meyer works at Eden House, a residency program for survivors of human trafficking. She studied Religious Studies at Elon University and plans on eventually becoming chaplain. She loves to dance and cook Austrian food.