“There’s no point in thinking through it, because there’s no way to know the answer to that question.”
Or is there a point?
I love to think, even about questions that don’t have answers. Or rather, questions that we won’t know the answer to while we live on this earth.
They don’t frustrate me. Because in asking the unanswerable questions, I’m increasing my wonder and amazement. I’m putting my heart and mind in a position that makes me remember
that I am human and God is not;
that my knowledge is limited and God is all-knowing;
that I have a pea brain and God thought up everything in existence.
Framed the right way, all those topsy turvy thoughts and mind-boggling questions about life can end in wonder, not frustration. What better place to be?
I can think through impossible questions for the sake of thinking about them.
I don’t have to be frustrated because I don’t understand. Instead, I can be amazed that He does.
“Daniel replied, ‘No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.’”
- Daniel 2:27-28
While we were still in lockdown, I walked alone to the grocery store. I passed a park with a grassy area — uncharacteristically sloppy, unkempt, and overgrown, making the deserted streets look even more like a ghost town. Looking up, I saw Spanish flags with small, black bows in memory of the ones the virus has taken.
Last week as I was buying groceries, the entire store fell into a hushed stillness as we paused for 60 seconds to remember those no longer here.
A few days ago I spent time with a friend who told me she still feels a bit “messed up” from the seven weeks we spent in our apartments without leaving. No doubt many of us are, in various ways.
With more freedom to move around and gather, funerals are finally being held for the ones that were buried in a hurry. Tens of thousands of people are grieving right now, even as Spain’s street cafes and bars begin to pulse back to life.
While we return to shop and spend and do business and see friends, to return to “normal” after all of this would not be right or healthy. To move along as if nothing happened would be a mistake.
To skip the step of processing and mourning would be a mistake. Although of course we rightly delight in moving around and seeing loved ones and enjoying life, hurriedly returning to superficial happiness and comfort is not the priority here.
Landing in peace and joy after wading through grief, hard conversations, and a good bit of self-examination is more important right now.
I want myself and all of us to meaning out of all of this. This strange virus is not a random biological event. There is meaning and much to learn and we have to mine for it, sift it out, and be okay if that process involves sitting in some discomfort and awkwardness.
I hope we take a uncomfortable moment to think about life and death.
I hope we treat each other more kindly and tenderly than we used to.
I hope we cherish relationships and look into each other’s eyes.
I hope we stop to ask friends how they’re really doing right now, then listen to the answer.
I hope we learn how to be more human and less like our own gods.
I hope we remember for a long time to come that we can’t count on our perfectly-laid plans for the future.
I hope we reflect on how we want to change and ways that this has shaped us.
I hope we cry with those who are crying and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
I hope we feel our spirit yearning for life and listen to the One who created it.
I felt it — the wreckage that selfishness and pride can cause. I was no distant observer. I was stumbling from the blow, a recipient of the trickle-down effects of others’ choices, wincing with the ache.
I saw it, cried over the pain, then declared war — war on my own heart, my own selfishness and pride, realizing the havoc we can wreck on each other’s lives.
We live and leave behind a trail of wreckage from the selfishness and pride in ourselves that we don’t see or haven’t addressed. Darkness we haven’t had the guts to bring to light or that operates like a secret agent, undetected even by the one in whom it lives. It’s not even only the ugliest of ugly — it’s also run-of-the-mill, daily thinking (even subconsciously) that it’s all about me and making decisions accordingly.
I could no longer make friends with my own self-centeredness. I don’t want my darkness to tag along like a wrecking ball, hurting those closest to me as well as others whose names I may never know. If kindness is a ripple effect, so is my own self-centeredness. I will fight that part of my heart to keep you safe.
The battle begins in my heart and it’s fought not by determining to be good — that just leads me to believe that I’m better than those around me who haven’t decided to be better people. That feeds my pride.
No, the battle is fought by turning away from myself and toward the God who sees the blackness I’m warring against (and what I cannot yet see), loves me still, and changes me slowly but surely into something better. I am humbled and raised up at the same time. No false assurance that I’m a perfect person and no shaming in an effort to make me shape up.
I can acknowledge my selfishness and pride without being bound to it or despairing because of it, because I know that I’m loved and being changed into beauty, and I will participate in that change process.
My heart is steadfast, resting in love and begging for more light to expel my darkness.
Today I cried. My heart is heavy, thumping inside of me.
Yesterday I put my boots on and took them walking to try and process everything: Spain’s lockdown that now seems like a dream (a bit of a bad dream), thousands of Spanish families grieving simultaneously, my friends in the US arguing about coronavirus, a man who was killed and the other man who had a hand in it, protests that highlight the hurt, people who riot, and my own selfish heart that I see more clearly every day.
All of these things (and so much more) wrapped into this moment of our existence. I am heartbroken and bothered by all of it.
Silly me! As if all of that can be predictably processed with a pen and paper in one afternoon. As if I could arrive at some sort of clarity after pounding out several miles.
I’ve felt so heavy and so confused the past few days thinking about George Floyd. I’ve prayed formless prayers with long silences. I’m having a hard time sorting through my own thoughts and certainly haven’t had words to say. I don’t know how to be or what to do.
This morning, I woke up to hear that one of the cities I‘ve come to care for was trashed last night. I caught up on news and have watched the riots with disbelief and the protests with my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Finally, I cried.
When talking and words seem like too much and not enough all at the same time, it seems like the only thing to do is grieve along with everyone who is grieving — most of all the Lord who is, no doubt, more brokenhearted than any of us as He looks at what we have done with this world and His images. “I’m sorry” is appropriate, because I know I have disrespected the humans in my circle who He loves dearly.
I must take a long, awkward look into my own heart and ask God to “search me and see if there is any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23).
I do that knowing that I am not perfect,
knowing that there are “hurtful ways” in me,
knowing that I need to see what needs to be fixed,
knowing that Christ will clean me and change my heart as I also work to change.
And finally, I have the ability to look inside the dark places of my heart without despairing because I know I am loved by Him in the middle of the whole process.
May I follow Jesus and sacrifice myself, my comfort, and my pride for the good of every person around me.
Today begins phase one of reopening here in Spain. The first step toward the new normal. And of course every country is doing it differently and everyone has something to say about it.
Is Spain doing it right? Are various states in the USA doing it right? As much as we like to think we know, no one does, and we all have a different perspective.
There’s the idea that we don’t really react to the weight of something until it affects our personal life. An issue doesn’t really take up space in our brains or hearts until it comes knocking at our door or in our neighborhood, affects us or our friends or family. To an extent, it’s true.
Our experience inevitably changes how we approach, see, and handle an issue or situation.
Here in Spain, corona (that’s my favorite name for it) is not far from any of us — both physically and emotionally. I’ve had friends who have been hospitalized with corona, others who have held the hands of those dying alone in nursing homes, one who has worked long long hours in the hospital, another whose mother passed away. And of course the physical health aspect is just one part.
It’s knocking on my friends’ door and affecting their lives.
Feeling certain effects of something doesn’t necessarily mean we know what the right, best, or good course of action is. Likewise, being removed from a situation doesn’t automatically mean we see it more clearly and can make the right call.
Both simply mean we understand different things, feel weight in places other people don’t.
Does anyone know the perfect way to handle shutting down or reopening in any country? No. Is everyone’s opinion influenced by the people they know, where they live, and how they’re affected? Yes.
None of us have the wisdom to know what to do or what is best. But, we can know a few important things to do and I think one of those things is this:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” -Romans 12:15-16
Right now some are weeping and some are rejoicing. And some are trying to rejoice over events that should be commemorated with a celebration but are not.
While I can (and should) think critically and share opinions and look at the big-scale picture, I’m not sure that’s what really matters right now. Humbly supporting and loving — through the good and the bad — the individuals I know and “not being wise in my own eyes” is what I want to focus on.
Here in Spain, the little ones are getting their first taste of this different and unsettling world outside of their home. Four days ago was the first time kids have been allowed outside since coronavirus hit the second week of March.
I’m trying to imagine what an 8-year-old thinks when they’re face-to-face with this for the first time: everyone in face masks, no friends to play with, empty streets, and forbidden playgrounds.
I didn’t have to imagine too long before I got a glimpse of what it might be like for them. On my walk home from the grocery store, I passed a mom with her daughter scooting along on a scooter. When the girl saw me, she hopped off her scooter, whimpered, and grabbed onto her mom’s leg. She could see only my eyes and not the smile I gave her. It must all be so strange and scary for the little ones. It was for me the first couple of weeks, too! I wanted to say to that little scooting girl “I understand! I know what it feels like to see all of this for the first time!”
I’ve been thinking about empathy.
It would seem that we should all have more empathy than ever now, right? Since almost no country is untouched, we are all living through coronavirus and quarantine and we can empathize; we can understand what each other is going through.
We say “I know what you mean…” and launch into how we totally get it because, of course, we are being affected by coronavirus, too.
We understand. Or at least we think we do, and I think that’s the problem.
True, we are all living under the effects of this crazy pandemic. But I think we are empathizing with others when we really have no way of understanding what they’re actually going through.
All of our lives are being dramatically affected by the same virus, but the way it plays out in each of our individual lives is radically different. We can’t even begin to compare one story to another. We can’t empathize as much as we think we can.
Some are working like crazy, others are suddenly jobless. Some are on lockdown, others are social distancing. Some have mental health challenges, others have physical challenges. Some have cancelled weddings, others have cancelled trips. Some have lost loved ones, others have been untouched. Some are barely coping emotionally, others are trucking right along.
I could go on, but you get the point.
We are all living through coronavirus but our lives are quite different and our hurts and struggles are as well. Let’s not pretend they’re very similar.
Less “I know, me too!” and “I know exactly how you feel.”
More “Wow, I’m so sorry, that stinks” and “Tell me what this is like for you.”
Jasper is chill. Confession: I am not always quite as chill about lockdown and everything going on around us as he is.
Some days are fine, others aren’t the greatest. Without being able to go outside and walk off some of the grayness in the soul, I’ve had to get creative. Here are three things I’ve always known but never quite put into practice like I have during these weeks. The truth is, I’m still trying to get these things into my brain. Writing this will help me do that.
We don’t have to wait until we feel like something to do it – in fact we shouldn’t wait for feelings. We should act in order to change our feelings about something, not wait for our feelings in order to act on something. Knowing that, I’ve tried to do these three things when I can tell my heart needs them, if not even more regularly.
Singing like I mean it and singing things I believe. Also singing silly songs while I cook and dance in the kitchen (the neighbors don’t mind). This isn’t just jamming to music, it’s me singing! It’s not pretty, but I love it 🙂 I think in some mysterious way, it’s good for us humans. Makes sense that God tells us to do it.
“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)
It’s good for them and good for me (great how it works out that way, right?!).
This one is admittedly a bit hard when we’re truly stuck at home and can’t even wave to a friend from across the road. But you’re underestimating humanity if you think we can’t still think of interesting and creative ways to show love to the people we know (or people we don’t know). It looks different and it doesn’t have to be BIG. It just has to happen. Structure is okay for this. If you have to set a reminder to send a gift to so-and-so or call your grandma (ahem, that’s me), it doesn’t negate the goodness of what you’re doing.
I need to remember that things were never about me and they still aren’t. I’ve not suddenly become a queen and I’m not trying to act like it. Instead, I want to look at others and think of them as the kings and queens!
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phiippians 2:3)
Thankfulness is not the same as toxic positivity that negates reality. I think we can be thankful, joyful, and peaceful while still sitting in the middle of junk. Thankfulness is not just being positive because we know some “bad” thing will eventually end, it’s being joyful in the middle even when there’s no end in sight.
Over five weeks ago, I started a “Coronavirus Thankful List” that I’ve kept adding to as I think of things. This list has all sorts of things on it, including taste buds, thunder, technology, that we have a balcony, Jesus, chocolate, that I still have a job, and that I enjoy cooking. This list helps me.
Thankfulness roots my heart in humble gratitude and I’m able to see and enjoy the gifts I have all around me. Plus, since I know Jesus, there will always be something for which to be grateful.
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Well today was a joy-filled day. I love Easter. It’s one of my favorite holidays.
Yes, I prefer celebrating it with a group of family and friends. Yes, I like to see the sun rise on this Sunday. Yes, gathering together to worship and sing is best and good for my soul. And yes, holiday traditions are special and meaningful.
But I realized this morning that the reason this day brings me joy has very little to do with those things. In fact, the joy shone even a bit more brightly on this strange Easter Sunday precisely because what I normally do on this day was changed or gone, so the day was stripped down to WHO and WHAT I celebrate. And it was more than enough to rejoice in!
The world is bleak. There’s no doubt about it. This Easter Day doesn’t deny suffering nor does it simply provide a weak positive message of optimism.
As my pastor in Lexington said this morning, “Don’t think happy thoughts. Believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead… That it actually happened. And it happened as a preview and a guarantee of the destiny of every single one who trusts in Him.”
That is hope for another life and so much joy and peace and identity for this life. That infuses joy into this day and into every other day as well.
We acknowledge the heartbreak of this life, the difficulty, the impending death… and hold all of that in tension with the longing for the way things are meant to be, for God’s design and creation to be as it should. And rejoice in Jesus who is alive!
I rolled out of bed with a headache this morning. Things are starting to catch up to all of us at this point.
The world continues to reel and we are dizzy with the spin of it. I ache for my affected friends and pray and continue to sit in my home.
My back is rebelling against all that time sitting combined with the unusual living room workouts I’ve been doing. Can’t sit and can’t stand and “I can’t wait until I can go for a walk to work out the kinks,” I thought to myself. Instead, I got creative with a standing desk for today and mentally braced myself for a few more weeks of this.
It is easy to feel as though this life we are living right now, this daily movement confined to a few hundred square feet, is a sort of half-life. Like life is on hold until things return back to “normal.”
But it’s not on hold! This very day is my life. This is no half-life! This is the real deal — today.
Henri Nouwen wisely said, “While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will get better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with deep trust that God will never leave us alone.”
And so while I long for future wholeness, I live in the present. Maybe a heart full of hope means not thinking about tomorrow much at all — not worrying about the hardships that are sure to come, nor pining with flimsy optimism for the good days we want.
Instead, I should live firmly planted in the present day, the life I’ve been given. I will ground my feet to the earth (or in my case, the floor) that’s beneath them and live this day as I’ve lived all the other ones of my life: with the grace and strength I’m given.
C.S. Lewis gives a great reminder for our overactive minds: ”Remember, one is given the strength to bear what happens, but not the 101 different things that might happen.”
I have strength for this very day and I’ll live it as if it were the realest day of my life! And it is. I was, quite literally, born for this day.
I’ll live this day in the same way and out of the same identity as I’ve lived all my other days. There is strength and mercy for this present day. Tomorrow morning I’ll get more.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)