As we reflect back on this year it is tempting to think about all that we have missed and lose sight of the good. Much of what I have read about the impact of the virus focuses on the more exceptional and superficial things we have lost—“we can’t go out to dinner and a movie what are we to do?!?” But I think the changes have hit most of us more deeply than this.
For example, even though we are with our kids more often, we can’t integrate them into the normal rhythms of life. Right now we are planting a family garden. We went to the garden store this weekend to let the kids pick some things out only to find that no one under the age of 16 is allowed in the garden center, not even in the outdoor area. Or some of you may have had the experience of trying to buy a new pair of shoes (my son’s old shoes were letting in water through the soles) when you aren’t able to touch, try on, or return shoes. We currently are stuck with three new pair of shoes for our son and none of them fit well!
We also find ourselves kept from normal celebrations and milestones of loved ones—birthday parties, weddings, graduations. When good things happen to people we love it is moral to celebrate with them! But we can’t. As a result both their and our joy is diminished. (And when normal, healthy sources of joy are cut off it is far more tempting to turn to sinful counterfeits.)
Finally, we find our children completely bereft of normal socialization. Playgrounds are closed, playdates caput, and while our kids are getting a lot of sibling time, their ability to interact with new people has been severely diminished. I worry about how my youngest son is going to transition into Kindergarten this year if he is kept from normal socialization through this summer!
I of course could go on. But my goal isn’t to complain or focus on the negatives, rather I want to simply give expression to what all of us are feeling in some way and to some degree: you are not alone in your fear and frustration!
I also want to affirm that though this is a bad situation God is using it to bring about good things.
Consider patience. I doubt there is a single one of us who has not come to recognize the limits of our patience. A lot of how we control our temper is by controlling our environment—we can no longer do that! Instead we find ourselves cooped up, surrounded by kids bouncing off the walls, and all the while our kids (how do I put this delicately?) often don’t pick up on the subtle signals that mom and dad put out when they are under stress. No one would choose this, but here we are and it is a great opportunity for us to grow in patience!
Likewise, every single one of us has experienced fear and anxiety to some degree. Whether it is fear of the virus, fear for our business and livelihoods, fear of the government’s growing authority—all of us have experienced fear to some degree. Though fear is not good, it can be a prompt, a spiritual cattle prod, that leads us to repentance of our self-sufficiency and repentance of the foolish trust we put in things and people so that we may trust more deeply in Christ.
Finally, this time has forced many of us to reevaluate how and where we are investing our time and money. Are youth sports worth all the effort we put into them? In some cases yes, in some no. Only one of my kids knows how to swim—I really want them all to learn how to swim this summer and I hope they can! Yet we have found better alternatives to some of the other organized activities I had them involved in. As we can longer go out and “shop for fun”, many of us have been challenged to consider what it is that we really need and what we are buying out of a sense of boredom or to create some purpose that we should find elsewhere. Most of us don’t revaluate our life in deep and meaningful ways unless we are forced to. And here we find ourselves forced to do just that!
As we think through all the ways we can be growing during this time it is easy to despair. You may be thinking, “great, not only did this time suck, but I am less patient, more fearful, and compulsively spending on Amazon instead of at Target!” That is how all of us feel in some way and to some degree. And this leads us to the greatest opportunity yet, something that, Lord willing, we’ll be able to model and pass on to our children. We have the opportunity to trust in Christ’s atoning work more deeply. The solution to sin and failure isn’t self-improvement; it is Christ! Here we have gone through this difficult time that we could have used to grow in character and not one of us did it perfectly! And that is ok!!! Christ didn’t just die for our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission—He lived the life that all of us should have lived but never can and never will. And we can rest in that. Even now. Especially now. Though we are faithless; He is faithful. He is the answer to our impatience and fear as well as our failure to respond well to difficulty. We will never model perfection to our children, but we can always model repentance from sin and faith in Christ.
This year didn’t go the way that any of us desired. Our plans have been frustrated time and again. But God’s plans cannot and will not be frustrated. As the world around us grows darker, the light of Christ grows brighter! While I am looking forward to a return to normalcy, I am also eager to see the good things that God will bring out of this time of trial.