My friend stands on my front porch, waving at me through the glass in my security door. She’s wearing a mask. I’m wearing a mask. I wave back, trying to say thank you loud enough so she can hear me. She’s here to pick up a box of the devotional I wrote a few years back. They’re the gift she’s getting for soon-to-be graduates this month whose soon-to-be graduations will feel anything but devoted, let alone normal.
But nothing feels normal these days. The election that we all wanted to come and go still somehow hasn’t. The football games my husband and I watch on our kitchen TV still show near empty stadiums, with cheerleaders wearing glitzy outfits shouting “Defense!” while standing six feet apart.
In hospitals, doctors report some patients yelling at them for wearing heavy protective gear — those patients arguing that they aren’t sick with COVID. In the meantime, Dr. Fauci says that even after the vaccine shots begin, life still won’t be normal for a long time. Arthur Reingold, a renowned epidemiologist, adds, “What that says to me is that people will have to keep wearing masks at least until spring. We won’t be in a magically different situation by February or March. I don’t see how that can possibly happen.”
Normal? Not any time soon.
But what, after all, was normal before the virus? Mass shootings came to our shopping malls and schools. The middle class was squeezed and still is. The working poor still fare even worse. Injustice and racism and divisions, despite those who deny such things, never went away. Other “isms” still find a foothold.
In month nine now of a pandemic, millions have lost jobs, businesses have shuttered, nearly 300,000 men, women and children in this nation have died from COVID. Then, close to my home, when I Googled a favorite mom-and-pop restaurant to check pickup options, the website greeted me with one word: CLOSED.
As if on cue, my phone buzzed with a Public Safety Alert: Your region is at severe risk from deadly COVID. Use caution.
Our pastor reminded us of our Redeemer during a recent virtual sermon. Dressed preacher-casual in a hoodie and jeans — and preaching by Zoom from his home office — he got down to business, pointing us to Isaiah 43:1: “Do not fear, I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
He could’ve kept reading through that robust forty-third chapter, moving to God’s stunning promise that “when you pass through the waters. I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).
He also could’ve emphasized that “God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7).
But most of all, he drilled down deep on God’s comfort from Isaiah 43:1: “You are mine.”
Looking resolved in his hoodie, our hard-working pastor — who has ministered by faith to church members over these long months, helping folks with COVID, and even burying others — spoke to us like this: “It’s my pastoral duty to remind you that you belong to God. You are the center of His heart. God is keeping you. He can bless you and protect you, even in a pandemic.” Then he closed his sermon with this: “Thank you, Jesus!”
Seeing the screen fade away, my husband Dan and I shouted back: “Amen!”
Yes, thank you, Jesus. He still sees us, knows us, and cares all about us. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
That’s how the apostle Paul taught of the Lord when he was at Colosse. It was a hard time then too, with false teachers dividing the church. Paul, however, pointed the people back to the One Who knows us each by name. Your name. My name. He is the One Who invites us to turn from what looks fearful and to run to Him instead. God alone still holds all things together.
As my humble pastor said, “Thank you, Jesus!” We can try to say more in times like this. We can try to fight our way from the grip of a scary pandemic, try to ignore safety rules, piling into churches or restaurants as if our “right” to gather matters more than common sense. Or we can rest in the Lord as He holds us and everything else together. Until normal returns–however we define normal–we are still His. Even in this storm? Especially in this storm. And may God Himself help us to believe it.Leave a Comment