A Calming Reminder of God's Presence During Challenging Times

How a small moment on the subway is helping me trust God during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Posted in , Mar 24, 2020

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I live in New York City, an epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak. My family and I have a lot to worry about. We are sheltering at home. School is closed. Businesses are closed. The city’s normally unruly streets are eerily quiet. Thousands of miles away, my mom is similarly locked down in an assisted living facility in California. My wife Kate’s mom is in the same situation in Seattle.

One thing that helps keep me calm is a memory. It’s something that happened just a few weeks ago, back when I still rode the subway to work and Kate and I still held out hope that we’d get to take the kids on a long-planned, long-looked-forward-to trip to London. That feels like another lifetime.

I was riding home on the subway, already anxious about the Coronavirus’s steady advance toward New York. I was reading, trying to focus on something besides worry. Just before the doors closed at the 14th Street station, a man stepped aboard and said in a loud voice, “Good afternoon, everyone, pardon the interruption.”

I didn’t look up from my book. Homeless or mentally unstable people board the subway all the time and loudly tell their stories before asking for money. New Yorkers tune it all out.

Beautiful chords began playing on a guitar. “I just want to wish everyone a blessed day,” the new passenger said before launching into a soaring rendition of Michael W. Smith’s praise song “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

His voice rang out in the hushed car: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.” And then the chorus, even louder: “To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love as we sing holy, holy, holy.”

The train neared the next stop and the singer lingered on those last words, repeating them over and over: “Holy, holy, holy.”

I lowered my book, closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my hand clutching the bar in front of me. I wanted to cry. All of my anxiety evaporated in that song, swept away by those words: “Holy, holy, holy.”

The train stopped. “Blessings to you all,” the singer called out. “God loves you, have a great day.” He stepped off and disappeared into the crowd.

Now, at home, when I feel myself starting to freak out, I play that song. I remember that moment of unexpected grace. And I remember something that is true no matter how bad things feel: God is here. God is at work even if we’re too anxious to see it.

Open the eyes of your heart. Trust me, you’ll see. 

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