What a year it has been and we’re only 4 months in. I feel like we all need to take a collective deep breath and just remember that this will pass.
Many of our grandparents lived through similar situations such as the Spanish Flu epidemic and 2 World Wars but the world continued to spin and those things passed into history like all things do. I remember hearing stories about how different life was during World War II as well as after it was over, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what life will be like when the uncertainty and urgency of this passes. Will life be different? Will WE be different? Or will things go back to “normal” as so many people are hoping?
Something that keeps popping into my head is that God wasn’t surprised by this virus. He wasn’t surprised by the economic fallout or the worldwide fear that seems to be in the very air around us. I also don’t think the timing is coincidental. 2020 – a term used to describe clear and perfect sight or vision. I mean, as a writer, God is my ultimate mentor. Scripture is full of every beautiful writing technique. Allusion, simile, metaphor, foreshadowing… humor, sarcasm, hyperbole, dreams…poetry, history, mystery, romance, symbolism…. you name it and you can find it. Shakespeare has nothing on God. So, I can’t shake the thought that He’s using some double entendre to clue us in to what he’s doing in the world and what He wants to do in us. Could it be that He wants us to change how we see the world? How we see ourselves? How we see Him and our faith? Could it be that He wants everything in us to seek His heart again and to put aside everything that has clouded our sight and kept us from total devotion? If so, that implies that our vision has been hindered, our focus has been off or we have just gone blind. The next question is what are we not seeing clearly?
I’ve wrestled over these thoughts for a month. As of yesterday and as of this 5th draft, it still didn’t seem clear. Then I woke up at 3:28 am last night with these three things burning in my heart. Sin, social issues and possibilities. I’m not claiming to be a prophet by any means but I feel like God has been speaking some things to my heart in a deep way and that He has burdened me to share it for whatever reason. So here we go.
20/20 VISION TO SEE SIN
This worldwide quarantine has stirred up our lives and hearts. We’ve all seen things in ourselves that the busyness of our lives had previously hidden. The important question is, what will we do with those realizations? Will we become more thoughtful and introspective as we ask God to convict us and show us what things need to be changed or will we dig our heels in because of fear or anger and become more blind and hard-hearted than before? It would be a shame to walk through these trying times without learning and growing from them. It’s clear in Scripture, (and in history) that difficulties often lead God’s people to better things. After all, He specializes in bringing dead things to life, taking old things and making them new and using what the world sees as failure to bring greater glory. Not only that, people who walk through difficult times clinging tightly to Jesus come out closer to Him than ever before and with more purpose than they could ever have imagined. Could that be what God is wanting for us? To be so close that nothing comes between us like it has in the past? Covid-19 may be the mud that Jesus is using to help His people see clearly for the first time in a long time?
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:6-7
As God’s children, we’re called to live holy lives and to repent of any sin that we become aware of. But, repenting of sin is hard to do if we’re too busy to take an honest look at Jesus and ourselves or if we choose to believe that everything is relative. The enemy is covert. He’s sneaky and devious in his ability to lull us into pride and pride brings selfishness, denial and justification as we compare ourselves with other people. We sometimes forget that the goal isn’t other people, it’s Christ himself.
Two months ago, it seemed that we were all proud to answer the question “How are you?” with a quick “Busy as ever.” As if busyness was the mark of a well lived life. I think it was easy to miss how those busy schedules had kept us from seeing sin in ourselves. I know from talking to other people that it masked the lack of prayer, worship with other believers, time with family, and needed rest in our lives. Now that we’ve had to stop for a while, we’ve noticed that we’re struggling to live without certain things that entertained or comforted us. Sports, movies, concerts, shopping, friends. Sadly, the isolation has revealed other things that we’ve run to for comfort or to numb ourselves from all that’s going on in the world. Alcohol, food, porn. Any one of these things, and countless others, become an idol when they replace God as our source of life, joy, and comfort.
God loves His people too much to leave us in a place of blindness to our sin and our need for Him. Could He be using this time in history to shake everything around us so that we will turn to Him as the foundation for our lives instead of all the things that we had previously placed our hope and confidence in? Could He be offering an opportunity for His children to catch a new vision of who we were really meant to be? Could He desperately want us to see where we’ve fallen short so that we can turn to Him and realize the incredible plans He has for each of us? Could this opportunity to take an honest look at where we were 4 months ago, and where we want to go, and be a gift from God?
20/20 VISION TO SEE SOCIAL ISSUES
There are some great things coming out of this season in our lives for sure, but there’s always a second side to every story. A dark side. Child abuse and domestic abuse are being reported at higher rates than normal; the poor have higher mortality rates because of previous problems with health, nutrition, and lack of medical attention; the homeless have nowhere to “shelter in place”; millions are out of work; slave trafficking has increased due to higher levels of abuse and poverty. I’ve read articles that suggest high levels of poisons found in water run-off from pesticides have been discovered in the victims of Covid-19. Pollution is another common denominator in the hardest hit areas. Do we see it? Will we allow ourselves to resist the knee jerk reaction of explaining it all away as “not my problem” and realize that God cares a great deal about all of these things. Injustice, inequality, widows, orphans, the weak, His creation…And, if He cares, we should care. In fact, you would think that God’s people would be the first to fight for the weak, the vulnerable and the world.
So many things blur how we see these difficult issues and it’s much more comfortable to allow ourselves to go blind to them. Especially if it isn’t in our own backyard. I’m not saying we can make life equitable or that we can obliterate poverty and injustice but I am saying we are accountable to what we do with what we know. Ignoring or denying the pain and suffering around the world isn’t acceptable in the eyes of God. If nothing else, this pandemic has opened our eyes to the myriad of opportunities we have to make a difference.
Throughout scripture, God speaks of caring for the poor, fighting injustice, defending the weak and giving ourselves and our resources to those in need. Throughout history, the Church has been the source of healing, mercy, care and hope in the world. Even now, the Church has had a loving presence in the middle of our circumstances. But, what if God has clearly revealed to us more than we may have wanted to know, for the purpose of opening our eyes to the hopelessness and need we are called to step into? Not just as the Church but as members of the Church. Not just by sending a few bucks to our benevolence fund but by getting involved on a personal level. Helping those in our own town. Simplifying our lives so we have more to share and give and more energy to get involved? What if our eyes were opened to the importance of ALL people and we loved them and fought for them the way God does?
20/20 VISION FOR THE POSSIBILITIES
These are hard times but there are good things in the midst of it all if we will look. Families are reconnecting, people are getting the rest they need, children are learning how to use their imaginations, people are tapping into their creative side, many are taking this time to learn something new, the planet is getting a much needed time of healing, people are praying and seeking God more, friends are making an effort to connect, neighbors are checking on one another more often, we’re being forced to consider the most vulnerable among us above ourselves, we’re cutting back on things that were never necessary, people are seeing the need for exercise…we could go on and on.
But, even among all the good, we’re hoping for the time when we can get back to “normal”. The question in my mind is, “What is normal?” and “Do we really want to get back to what was considered ‘normal’?” Of course I want certain things. I want people to have jobs. I want to see my grandchildren. I want to hug my friend’s. I want to worship with other believers and go out to eat with my husband and yes…I still want to travel to the beach as soon as possible.
What I don’t want is to become blind to the things I’ve seen in the world that obviously need our prayers, attention and action or to put my comfort above those needs. I don’t want to return to a prayerless life, meals on the go, large bank accounts and lonely families, pollution, a lack of appreciation for nature, nameless neighbors and lives that are so busy that church is expendable. I don’t want to idolize sports and entertainment so much that we forget the real heroes in life…teachers, first responders, grocery store workers, truck drivers, doctors, nurses, janitors and mail carriers among many others. I don’t want us to forget to say thank you or to stop sacrificing things we might need (maybe toilet paper) in order to help someone else in need (like the woman that gave her 1 pack to my mom when the store ran out). I don’t want to forget that life is fragile, people die and today is a gift. I don’t want to forget that my hope and my security is in the eternal life that Christ provides, which enables me to face the worst of this world with peace. On my good days I rest in this. On most days, the world does a good job of blinding me to it but I want to see clearer.
Selflessness…I don’t want to forget that.
Gratitude. I don’t want to forget that.
Dependence on God. I don’t want to forget that.
Resting and Sabbath. I don’t want to forget that.
Suffering. I don’t want to forget that.
My responsibility to be a part of the solution. I don’t want to forget that.
Frugality…I don’t want to forget that.
Could it be that God is using all the things we are walking through to strip away what we thought was “normal”? Maybe it was never normal to Him. Maybe some of it was just flat out sin.
I don’t believe things will ever be what we knew them to be. But instead of assuming it will be worse, couldn’t it just as well be better? That’s what our God does. He does the unexpected and the unbelievable. It’s all throughout scripture. Elijah and the widow with enough flour for one day, the feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, David killing Goliath, and Gideon’s 300 men defeating the Mideonite army are just a few. Oh, and the greatest of all, the death of a poor carpenter to bring life to the world.
There’s nothing God can’t handle and nothing He won’t walk through with us. To think things will always be easy is to remain blind as well. God isn’t about comfort. He’s about transformation. He’s about overcoming. He’s all about life. But an abundant life in Christ may look a lot different than we thought it did 4 months ago.
I have a feeling that God is calling us, His people, to a new normal. To a normal that is more in line with His heart. A normal life that consists of things like hope, joy, peace, love, power, and generosity. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it all be worth it if, on the other side of all of this, our new normal looked more like the New Testament? What if people found emotional, spiritual and physical healing and the Church became known and respected for it’s love and unity? What if God’s people lived holy lives in serves to others while expecting God to show up in power? What if we spent more time just falling in love with God? What if God’s people humbled themselves, repented and prayed?
That’s a normal that I want to know and, I believe, that normal would usher in revival!
If 2020 goes down in history as the year God’s people regained their sight, it could be the year that a hurting and lost world finds hope. That would make everything we have faced worth it, and anything we could face in the future would simply pale in comparison to the glory God would receive. After all, when we see clearly, we know without a shadow of a doubt that, yes, HE IS WORTHY!