This article discusses the Covid-19 Pandemic. For more information on the virus and guidance to curb the spread, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html . "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." – 1 Peter 3:8 (ESV)
For the past year, the world has been halted by the Coronavirus outbreak that has spread to nearly every corner of the globe. We have lost friends and family, lost jobs, lost our sense of normalcy, some might have even lost themselves as the days, weeks, and months carried on trapped in our homes, fighting an invisible enemy, our defense a mask and closed doors. Do not misunderstand me; I have been happy to do my part to ensure that I, and more importantly those around me, were not overcome by this truly deadly disease. I do, however, look back on a conversation our church youth group had with us leaders back in January and February 2020, asking simply "What is going to happen Do you think this will spread to us? It feels scary and ominous." As adults, we looked at the numbers coming out of the first hit regions and decided that the best answer was reassurance that this would not be something that our young thinkers and believers would have to worry about.
I cannot wait until I can tell them how sorry I am. Sorry for taking their fear and their very really and calculated assumptions and trivializing them as if I knew better than anyone else. Sorry for not being a comfort as their worlds, worlds that had little more experience than the bubble of life they enjoyed, were tearing at the seams just beyond our view. I realized I knew nothing, none of us did; perhaps with the exception of scientists, our young youth group members, and, of course, God. The past year, though dull and standing still as it may seem, was really a year of change, reflection, and new understanding... and, although I will admit that some of the change came in the form of a few extra pounds, there was so much more from God that He hoped we might have an eye to see. Today, I wanted to take a little bit of time to discuss that God has taught me, one year on.
Silence can be deafening, but also reflective
I think I know this to an extent before our lives were thrown into lockdown, but I definitely grew in this understanding and it was not without a bit of annoyance and pain to my flesh. Before lockdown, and even during, I was always going. I love to travel, visit amusement parks, see friends, and even attend the horse races. I am naturally introverted so silence is something I tend to value, but being active was also my mode of operation. It was how I kept social, how I kept fit, and how I created a work life balance. Throughout the past year, working from home, staying at home after work, and generally spending my weekends looking for something to fill the hours that bled into the days, became a silence that I could hardly bear. But, then, God spoke. Very clearly, one afternoon as I was shoveling more chips into my mouth while absentmindedly skimming the channels for something to watch, I heard God say, "You can use this moment to fall into mindlessness, or you can use it to grow." Now, I am still reflecting even today, and I did in fact fall into mindlessness while binging Netflix from time to time, but I was also able to reflect. I reflected on my divine call to ministry and how thankful I am to have answered when I did. What would have become of me in this year if I would have still been climbing the wrong ladder? I reflected on how I should step out next and why those next steps were the right ones for me. I reflected on friendships and the value in which I had laid on some, perhaps mistakenly... which led me to my next understanding.
Friendships that cannot survive the solitude of lockdown are not the friendships you need right now
Going into 2020, I already had a bit of yearning for something new. I felt that some friendships were being reinvigorated, while others were losing their life. I was sad about it and, being a normal human, I tried to hold on too tightly and for too long. When the pandemic hit, there was a decision that needed to be made, was I going to hold on, when all I could do was scratch at the surface of those friendships I so wanted to keep, or would I respond to their trajectories and, without compromising my own character, let them travel down the course they were on? God makes everything beautiful in its own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and I needed to let those things be beautiful and then fall away when God was done with them, and do so without bitterness or sadness. It does not mean that those beautiful memories or the prospect of rekindling those friendships is gone forever; it just means they need to be shelved right now and though this is hard, and you might have times of sadness and pain, God will take that hurt and turn it into peace. I am still, at times, reckoning with the pain and finding my peace, but in this year of solitude, God has given me the strength to take the step I never could.
Whether you do a lot in this time or a little, what matters is Who you are doing it for
So much of the struggle of lockdown comes from not being able to do what we so want to do or what we have told is normal to do. We can't go into work (or you have lost your job all together), we can't spend time out on our days off, we can't grow in our business or ministry, we cant even go to church! Sure, like so many others, I have gained new skills during lockdown. I have taken courses and gained new knowledge, I have even started this website in the isolation of this moment; but there are plenty of things I haven't done that make it seem like my life is at a stand still. Even if you have done nothing but ate bon bons on your couch and watched Tiger King or Class Action Park (two of my binges during this time), but your intention was to do the right thing and stay home to potentially save others and yourself, you can never regret this time that you have done "so little." This was a hard one for myself and many others around me. We all have person goals that have greatly gone to the back burner due to the pandemic; but beyond that, working for a church, I have witnessed and even fought the struggle of not having the ability to bring others together for worship; to close the doors and tell believers to stay home instead of welcoming them in. The Catholic Church told their congregates that they had a "moral and ethical obligation to do everything in their power to keep from spreading the virus." I am not Catholic, but I loudly cheered when I read this. We always feel like we must be doing something to honor God, but what if that something is simply sitting on our couch for online worship and taking a year to do nothing, just to save His people? We would not be cowering in fear, but standing up the the enemy who wants to kill us and our faith in any ways he can. Which brings me to one final reflection from the year...
There will always be an invisible enemy, but there will also always be a greater God
So much of what we are taught as believers is how we must, and can stand up to our invisible enemy, Satan. We cannot see him or know where he will hit us next, and all the weapons at our disposal are the Armor of God, which to the world, doesn't seem like much. Yet, we stand up courageously for the fight. For the past year, we have been fighting another invisible enemy in this virus, with our only weapons being a mask and a locked front door (or six feet of social distance). Perhaps, as believers, we have it harder since we are fighting two enemies at once; but I like to see it another way. We have been trained for this, our whole entire lives. We have been trained that standing up to an enemy only the hand of God can truly defeat, in the only way we can do so is not only courageous, it is biblical and right. We have been set up for success as we remember our highest and most noble call is to bring others to Jesus in how we live the Gospel out in our lives and care for others. Caring is not weak, understanding that the enemy might wound us in this time, but we can keep him from overcoming, is the most important task; and, in the end, God will make a way and heal our wounds and use our experience and new understanding for good. You see, God is greater, so there is a light. We don't have to worry that this will never end because God has victory in His sights and though we might not know what that looks like, we can be assured that it will come.
This year of pandemic, lockdown, loneliness, stillness, silence, grief, and despair has rattled us to the core. We mourn for those we have lost, and rightfully so. We know that life will never be without this year and all it has taken and changed, etched in our flesh. We know that so many of us might not see the light at the end of the tunnel; but we also know that through all of this, there is God and if we allow Him to do so, He will take this time to teach us so much more than we have ever known. Perhaps, instead of a lost year, we can remember this as a growing year. A year that tested our faith and our hearts and has brought us into the most stripped down and intimate relationship with God we could have ever hoped to have.
Stay strong friends, God's still with us.