Only six short months ago, we were all anticipating the year “2020”…
The “Class of 2020” (what a great year to say you graduated!), tacky jokes about “2020 vision,” the adjustment to writing a “2” instead of a “1” on that written year section on a check or a form, as we had done for the past 10 years… I remember New Year’s Eve, and I remember the excitement. I was extra excited for this one, and we all, kids included, did the countdown and watched the ball drop in the impossibly crowded Times Square on our living room TV. I had a surge of hope… this year was going to be different; I just knew it.
Only three short months later, 2020 delivered that “difference”… Times Square was emptied, something about “the novel Coronavirus” started filling up our news feeds, and every day activities and our normal way of life came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappeared, bread and meat shelves were empty, school was turned into “distance learning,” “Zoom” became a household word, employment was challenged for many, and something more “novel” than anything I have ever seen in my life happened: worship services were cancelled for an indefinite time.
Easter, which we were well prepared and excited for, loomed this year, an unopened box of matching Easter Sunday outfits sat on my floor, Cadbury chocolates were supposedly on their way from Amazon, and we wondered, what do we do now? For many, Easter is just another day, but for us, this is a highlight of the year, like Christmas, where we remember why we pray, where the children excitedly search for eggs in traditional Easter egg hunts, where candy is everywhere, and we celebrate God’s ultimate victory over death itself.
But this year, Easter happened, for all of us social distancing (another household term now), in our living rooms, or in hospitals, or on computer screens…. and what had been a “norm” for most of my life suddenly became impossible.
For many like myself, going to church or gathering on Sundays is a “norm”… we get that necessary break from the work week, and we focus on God and our neighbor, we relax and enjoy our Sundays (for the most part). Other than “church,” we have other “boxes” that we fill… we drive to work, we go to the grocery store and other shopping ventures, we travel or go to places of recreation; we have our minds set on the every day routines that keep the world, both our little personal world and the larger one, spinning.
But this year, the only box we needed to check was “to stay isolated from others except our families.”
I don’t know about you, but every cell in my being felt uncomfortable with this “box” at first. I could feel an inner resistance even though I obeyed (and still obey) the social distancing guidelines and rules. We humans can find it hard to change and adapt, but over time, we can learn to accept what has become (another household term) a “new normal.”
On my own, I found I could not have mentally survived complete isolation, virus or not. I also became intrigued, in a way, that I was (and am) being asked to find God anyway, outside my typical “box.” With everything turned on its head, I found that God has never stopped working wonders, whether there is Covid-19, politics, family drama, poverty, you name it… God cannot be stopped. Churches closed on Easter? That didn’t change the truth about the Resurrection. A lockdown? That doesn’t change the ways we can still love our neighbor.
And for me personally, I found way more than I ever thought possible.
I am not making light of the suffering that the Coronavirus has and is causing… but I am simply bursting with wonder at what God has done over the last several months, as difficult as they have been.
The last several months have somehow brought us all together, in a unique new way, perhaps in more ways than distancing us… we all now share a common experience that we will most likely share with future generations: “where were you when the lockdown started?” We share this with our children and grandchildren, our parents and grandparents, our neighbors, people of all different faiths and backgrounds, strangers! Everyone! We have something that somehow brought the world together during the pandemic, a common experience, for the most part…
What I needed to be reminded of was that God cannot be contained in or limited to a church building. He is ABOVE all of it and all of us. Prayer wasn’t and isn’t cancelled, creativity isn’t canceled, love can‘t be canceled. These aspects simply changed in the way we act on them. I would wager that love increased, focus increased, and our ability to see what and who really matter in our lives INCREASED.
At least for me it did…
I wasn’t sure how this was all going to work out with my children all here 24/7, children who have excellent schools and great friends, and us all needing some healthy space… but it worked. We even had a few arguments where important items bubbled to the surface and had to be faced… Items that normally we would all have continued to bury and move on with our individual lives suddenly couldn’t be ignored. Healing happened.
For me, I discovered a depth of friendship that I didn’t know existed, friendship where depth and love far exceed exterior conveniences, easy times, comfort, similar schedules, or “same life”… friendship based on the raw heart and soul and Truth, friendship forged at “ground zero” that became truly eternal. These are relationships that we not only needed to go through extra trouble to seek out during this time of quarantine, but be available to in a new way, an openness to finding God where we may not have looked before. I also found that with my existing friendships, petty differences no longer mattered. We were all reduced to our core, who we really are deep down. I even witnessed teachers sending emails that showed kind and loving emotion, teachers who beforehand may have strictly been business-like regarding their students. I noticed the same with other professionals, all of us sharing a common concern and camaraderie…
Just like He could not be confined to the Tomb, I discovered that God cannot be confined to any “box,” especially those of my own making, my schedules, my routines, my “norms”…
In a way, I have felt God overthrowing the money-changing tables and cages in my life, smashing them to the ground, and telling me to look up, look around, look at Him. All the distractions faded away and all around me are those I love, and who love me, a beautiful exchange that really does exist in an almost mysterious place between heaven and earth.
For those who lamented the change of pace, for those who fear the virus, for those (like me) who have compromised immune systems, for those who are suffering and have lost loved ones, for those who were alone through all of this, for those who lost employment, for those who fight depression, for those whose lives have been turned upside down…. my heart is with you.
My prayer is that we truly can emerge from the darkness into a new light, taking greater care of each other, especially those we love. Life is precious.
But even in the darkness, even outside any of the boxes we had made, indeed, God makes all things new.