This time last year we were starting to shut things down as we faced the uncertainty of the growing global pandemic. We went into lockdown for two weeks to help control the spread. But then two weeks turned into two months of sheltering in place. And those two months turned into four months, eight months, and now a year of being socially distant and cautious.
The original article I planned for recognizing this mark was far more solemn and not nearly as organized, although it did have some fun new vocab words. But the plan changed last week as I was scrolling through Pinterest and this quote popped up:
“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have”John Piper
My immediate thought was “Wow- this is so accurate”. I am a planner by nature. I love keeping a calendar with a variety of colored pens to organize my schedule. While I may not have every day planned to a T, I enjoy having a general idea of what the month ahead looks like. When the lockdown started, I kept my everything on the books. This was a temporary pause.
But as the weeks turned into months, my whiteout tape became a regularly used item. The university I work for shut down all in-person student events until further notice. The youth group lock-in was cancelled. A concert I had bought tickets for a year ago was dissolved, as were the plans to visit my sister in New York. A family reunion trip to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday was postponed.
My calendar morphed into a journal of sorts. I had to keep track of what I was doing to stay sane, especially the two months I stayed in isolation. So, I was excited when plans were made (even the virtual ones). My colored pens had a purpose! And even though they are used a bit more regularly these days, it is still with that whisper of ‘if we can’.
We all certainly hoped that 2021 would be less like 2020 and that we would be closer to our new normal and out of the ‘unprecedented times’. But what we are living today is not the life that we were hoping for. I think all of us have made that admission at least once in the past year. And yet…we are still here. We are still finding ways to reach out to each other, to stay connected, to lean on each other as we face these challenges & as we face our personal battles.
Please know that I am not trying to oversimplify what we have gone through as a global community or disregard the personal losses and struggles of this past year. It has been difficult. It has pushed each of us to our personal limits- emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
But we cannot give up. We cannot lose hope.
The above quote is from the 2017 video Embrace the Life God Has Given You: A Two-Minute Clip on Grief. John Piper, a renowned theologian and pastor, speaks about grieving a life that you once imagined having.
Ring any bells?
Maybe the imagined life was taken away by a health diagnosis. Or the domino effect of the loss of a loved one. Or living through a major historical phenomenon upending everything around you. Regardless of the cause, there is a valid human reaction to mourn what could, would, should have been if the cards played out differently.
Piper’s message also recalls this verse from Psalms 30:5: “weeping may stay for the night but rejoicing comes in the morning”. To be honest, I struggle with this verse. What if the weeping, pain, or sorrow is still there come morning? What if the night lasts longer?
A few months ago, I sought answers to these questions from someone far wiser & stronger in their faith. One of the takeaways from that discussion is that time in this verse is not measured by human standards. God does not see time the same way we do. Thus, the ‘night’ & ‘morning’ found here are more like periods of time. Maybe your night is just a night, maybe it is a couple of weeks. The important thing is that you find the morning again. That you turn towards the Light and rejoice in the hope found in this next period of your life.
So how do incorporate all of this into our lives?
Take your time to weep. Do not hold onto all the emotions but let them out. Once you have had that moment (or day, or week, or month) remember to turn back to God. Ask Him to remind you of the beauty of the life He has given us. And then find a way to reflect that beauty to the rest of the world.