This is Michelle.
Her drink is coffee with homemade dulce de leche.
And she is not sitting across from me on a quilt in the park, as the last several Sips & Scripts would suggest. She is in her house in San Diego with her two sweet daughters, her husband, and her enormous doggie, Zeus.
You see, Michelle is a friend from my graduate program at San Diego State University. I can still see her: this hip-but-not-hipster girl from New York, walking around our classroom performing a literature-based skit in her Mickey Mouse shirt with the utmost confidence. Michelle was cool and different, and I loved getting to know someone outside of my usual circle of friends.
Almost as soon as my MA degree was conferred, I moved to Florida to take a professorship, and Michelle and I still kept up with each other via email. I’ll never forget sending her the email that read: “so… without notice, Andrew and I are expecting our first baby due mid-October” and I instantly received one in return that said (pardon her French) “No sh**! I’m pregnant and due mid-October, too!”
Our babies were born exactly one day apart: my eldest son on October 14th, and her eldest daughter in October 15th. So far, plans to arrange their marriage have not gone so well seeing as we have seen each other… once…maybe twice since their births.
Nevertheless, it has been wonderful to keep in contact with Michelle despite cross-country moves, job changes, and the births of subsequent children.
In more recent years, our conversations have drifted back to the topics of Jesus and faith as both of us have grown deeper into our roles as Christian women.
When I asked if Michelle was interested in having a Sips & Scripts chat, she said yes immediately, and was prepared with her topic and verses when we met via Zoom. I would expect nothing less.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOVE AND CHARITY
“During the current struggles of the pandemic and the strained racial relations, there are a couple of verses that have helped me and offered guidance.
The first verse is a familiar one, 1 Corinthians 13.13:
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is loveESV
But in the King James Version, it reads:
And so faith, hope and charity abide, and the greatest of these is charity1 Corinthians, 13.13, KJV
I found the King James version to be really interesting. Charity is love in action—behavior-driven, whereas the word love reflects a feeling: such as, I love my family; love is easy.”
(Michelle and I went off on a bit of a tangent about the Greek word in that verse— agape— and why it might have been translated into both love and charity. I learned from The Bible Project that agape was the attempt in the Greek language to explain the concept of divine love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others as an expression of God’s love. It is characterized by love as service when we actively put the needs of others before our own— just as Michelle said).
“So if I accept the word charity as love-in-action, it reminds me that my behaviors during these troubled times need to reflect care for others.
This can start in my home; am I being charitable with my time? Am I carving out enough time for my daughters?
I love verses that refer to human behavior. They always help me adjust my own choices.”
A CLOSE-READING OF 1 CORINTHIANS 13.13
“So, let’s revisit this verse in terms of the pandemic:
- Faith: we must believe that God will see us through. We hold fast to that belief.
- Hope: though the news would convince us that all is hopeless, if we turn back to God, we remember that hope comes from Him.
- Charity: we actively offer grace and forgiveness to each other. So much division has occurred as a result of our situation: you have the mask-wearers and the mask-protestors who are suddenly mortal enemies. We forget that it is ok to disagree and still be caring towards one another.
I try to remember that we are all feeling stressed, and the pandemic affects each of us differently. In fact, I heard someone say the pandemic has amplified all of our predisposed qualities (ex. an anxious person becomes super anxious, and a person who fights for personal freedoms will fight harder and louder). And every one of us needs grace.”
And every one of us needs grace.
A SECOND VERSE TO WHICH WE SHOULD HOLD FAST
“Another verse that I’ve been using as a lens during the pandemic is Romans 5.3-4
…we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hopeESV
The first part of that verse is difficult — find joy in suffering? It goes against our human nature; we try to avoid suffering. But we know suffering is a part of life. And we are all suffering in some way right now.
I learned from previous experiences with depression, that letting oneself feel the hard feelings is healing. So I let myself feel whatever I need to feel during this containment — overwhelmed, frustrated, whatever. I have accepted the feelings of suffering rather than trying to dismiss them.
I reflect on previous struggles and admire the skills and knowledge that came from that period. I notice that God always provided a way out of it. For me, joy comes that way.
As far as endurance goes, this pandemic is not on our timeline. Trying to predict the end or think of how many months we have left doesn’t necessarily help anything; we can’t think of the pandemic in its whole scope, so we just focus on today. Can I get through today? Yes. Can I get through tomorrow? Yes— even if the days are hard.
As we endure this pandemic, we are gaining—as the KJV version calls it—experience, which builds our character in Him, and ultimately we will push through to hope.
The hope often can’t be seen until we’ve cleared some of the suffering away. For me, hope comes out of surviving difficulty. It fuels more hope for future struggles.
Even in the pandemic, there are certainly moments of joy here. When we start counting the ways that we are benefiting from the containment, giving thanks to God for them, it makes us more open to the experience.”
“This pandemic is the first major extended event in a long time in US History that calls for hope and faith.
And so we turn to the one book that can offer such things.”
Michelle’s close-reading of these bible passages is a helpful reminder that scripture is not meant to be rushed through.
Take a verse, break it down. I can hold each part— each word— up to the light like a color slide and examine it in light of my particular circumstances.
In this case, let the words in our favorite passages give us new perspective, new tools, for pandemic burnout.
with His love,