At the beginning of the year, when my husband and I realized we already had half a dozen dates spoken for, we sat down at our kitchen table to coordinate our calendars. We knew if we didn’t pencil them in, we might just find ourselves double-booked. For us, it was unusual to know so many dates this far in advance. As empty nesters who don’t need to arrange childcare anymore — last-minute road-tripping is how we roll.
Seeing all those fun things blocked off in black and white got me excited. Something special was scheduled for every month through mid-summer, and some months even had two special occasions! I couldn’t recall another year that had had so many back-to-back opportunities. Bless my children’s and sister’s hearts; they had the pleasure of enduring me repeatedly regale my/our fabulous upcoming plans — For All Who Wander book promotion, weddings, graduations, work-related and family travel. 2020 was shaping up to be a lively year, a spectacular beginning to a new decade.
Of course, nothing like a little global pandemic to remind you that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” One by one, we watched those saved dates fall like dominoes. Profound disappointment quickly extinguished my previously palpable excitement.
I observed something interesting about how I was processing the impact and implications of sheltering in place, social distancing, and everything else related to COVID-19: I felt guilty for being frustrated and disappointed over all my cancellations and inconveniences. As I began comparing my situation to the effect and losses others were experiencing, I was ashamed. Functionally speaking, I was assigning a greater value to “big” losses (children’s much-anticipated birthday parties; high school and college seniors missing proms, end-of-year-parties, and graduations; baby and bridal showers, anniversary parties, weddings; lost income, job loss, business failure; and in the saddest cases, health and even life), but giving zero weight to my own. On this imagined spectrum of “worthy enough to warrant disappointment, frustration, or grief,” my losses didn’t even register. In effect, I was telling myself I wasn’t allowed to have any feelings at all because my circumstances weren’t as bad as their circumstances (and “their” pretty much meant anyone other than myself).
As I said in a recent post about what I was doing to counter social distancing fatigue following a cancelled book event, “To pretend our losses aren’t valid because they don’t compare or are ‘too small to matter’ isn’t the right response. Every loss and disappointment matters to us as individuals because it’s the truth of our reality.” Our feelings matter because our circumstances matter because our lives matter to God. Certainly, we should always regard and be sensitive to others. At the same time, now is a pivotal time to check perspective and thoughtfully consider what we value as important.
Our entire world has been disrupted by the coronavirus. With the exception of Antarctica (which has no permanent residents and is currently in winter with temps averaging between -20°— -30°), every continent has reported cases of COVID-19. As I’ve processed my own inconveniences and disappointments through a lens of sensitivity to others and with kindness and grace to myself, one question keeps coming to mind:
What in the world is God doing?
The only way we can even begin to understand what in the world God is up to is to have our eyes on Jesus. I keep returning to the story about Peter, when he had to step out of a boat and walk on turbulent water to get to Jesus (Matthew 14:25-33). As long as Peter was looking at Jesus, he was fine; but as soon as he shifted his eyes toward the wind, he began to sink. The more fierce the coronavirus-wind blows, the more determined I am to focus on Christ. When I don’t, I start sinking, which thankfully turns me right back to God.
What in the world is God doing? is a question I’ve posed countless times in recent weeks, sometimes changing my inflection or word emphasis to ask an almost entirely different question. Though there’s no way you or I can answer it in full, at least we can in part. I’ll kick us off with three things I see God doing in our world, and I hope you’ll continue with your own observations in the comments.
- God is working in His children. As my schedule cleared, I sensed God working in my heart to prioritize what was most important. When it’s quiet enough to hear, when I’m less busy doing and instead simply being, I’m able to see that there isn’t anything more important than my relationship with Him. If it’s been a while, take a moment and read all of Psalm 46. It begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble . . . ” and after a lot of turmoil on earth, it continues with “‘Be still, and know that I am God.'” There’s something to the stillness of this season that ushers us into greater intimacy with God. Being still helped me to receive the love and encouragement God was offering me through His Word, as I saw how much I matter to Him again and again.
- God is making Himself known through people. It has been beautiful watching the Church rise up and serve those in need (and let’s face it, all of us have been in need of toilet paper at some time or another!). I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, “How are you doing? No, how are you really doing?” The genuine care and concern I see — for friends and family, neighbors, and especially strangers — has reminded me that we get to be Jesus with skin on to a world that is desperate to see Him. Sometimes we may even be entertaining angels unaware (Hebrews 13:1-4 ESV).
- God is reminding us we aren’t made for this world. 1 John 2:15-17 cautions us not to love the world and that it’s passing away; Philippians 3:20 declares our citizenship is in heaven. I don’t know about you, but there were so many things I counted on and clung to just a few weeks ago that don’t seem to matter so much anymore.
God is on the move even now. Let’s keep keeping our eyes on Him.
What do you see God doing in the world?
There's something to the stillness of this season that ushers us into greater intimacy with God. -@robindance: Click To Tweet