Growing Weary

Let’s go back to a time in your life when you were truly, utterly, exhausted. For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind is living with a newborn. There is no tired like post-pushing tired. I remember once waking up in the middle of the night to discover that I was standing up and leaning over my daughter’s crib. I had gotten up to soothe her, knowing that she was fed and dry. As I rubbed her back, I fell asleep in that position. I don’t know if I slept for 5 seconds or 5 minutes, but I don’t ever remember being that tired.

There are several variations of “tired.” We can grow weary of relationships. We can feel fatigued at the incessant opposition to our beliefs. We can become quickly exhausted by lack of sleep, lack of courtesy, lack of respect, lack of empathy, and especially lack of hope.

When this pandemic started, I likened it to a marathon, with the good news that every race has a prescribed course that is carefully marked out, and ends with a fixed and discernible finish line. Today I learned that there is something called the “Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race” that takes place in Queens, New York every year. It takes 52 days of running 6 a.m. to midnight to complete it. The average mileage is a little under 60 miles a day. Runners have six hours per day for eating, washing, foot care, and sleep. Just thinking about that makes me tired.

So let me revise my earlier analogy of the pandemic being like a marathon, because now we realize that it is more like a “Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race” and we have all become ultramarathoners.

But don’t miss the point…there is still a finish line at the end of this race, and every morning when we wake up, we are one day closer to the end.

Isaiah has some beautiful things to say about feeling faint, growing weary, being powerless, and where we can go to have our strength renewed:

Isaiah 40 (New Revised Standard Version)

Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

How reassuring is this? We are not running this ultramarathon alone, but indeed, God is running right there with us. He is the everlasting God. HE does not faint or grow weary. And look what happens next:

29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.

In the battle of virtual school, virtual church, virtual family birthday parties, virtual work, and virtually everything, God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. We need that NOW.

30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength. They shall continue to run this crazy race and not be weary. The finish line is getting closer! Keep your head up and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We truly are one day closer to the end of this thing.

Finish Line by Erin Gregory

Pandemic Legacies

Is this time of incredible trouble bringing out the best in you, or the worst in you? Every day brings a set of frightening new numbers, a slew of new recommendations, a lot of new problems…and a deluge of new worries. As I write this, there is a national debate going on about children returning back to school in less than two months.

There are strong and cogent arguments on both sides. The medical side points out the possibility of an increased spread of infection. The social work side argues that remote learning increases stress on working families, which historically corresponds to increased child abuse in the home and damaging social isolation for the child. Experts are weighing in on both sides, and there is no magic solution here.

What can we do?

I remember once being told that in situations where you aren’t in control, you should focus on what you can control. About the only thing left to control at this point is your reaction to everything that is out of control.

How are you doing with that? Do you have your reactions under control? Yeah, me neither. Some days are better than others. Some days I just want to hide under the covers.

Today’s passage is a timely reminder that our reactions are a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Even in the midst of such global turbulence, Paul reminds us not to throw a question mark over everything God has done for us. In situations like this horrific pandemic, Paul says not to squander any of the marvelous life God has given us. Instead, we are to be a reflection of God in everything we do.

2 Corinthians 6 (The Message)

 1-10 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.

We may not have seen the worst of this pandemic yet, but listen: IT WILL END. We won’t be living this way forever. In due time, it will be eradicated. There will be a vaccine. Things will return to a semblance of normal. God hears our call and is here to help.

But let’s hope we don’t return to the way we were. Let’s strive to a new normal that is faith-filled, battle-tested, smarter, more compassionate, and more dependent on God than we ever were in the before-time. Let’s strive to come out of this BETTER.

What will your pandemic legacy be? Have you been a witness to God’s hope, grace, and mercy in these troubled times? Have you stayed true to your word? Are you still God’s servant, filled with deep joy, a pure heart, a clear head, and a steady hand? It’s not too late to pick up the mantle of hope. Even in this, you can be a beacon of gentleness, holiness, and honest love to the world.

You control your response every day. Let your light so shine that all would see Jesus reflected in you, and gain hope themselves.

People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

Go out today and be “terrifically alive,” reflecting the deep joy of the Lord in everything you do. Let this be your hope: we are one day closer to the end of this thing.

Reflections by Jamie Mathis

No Time for Goodbye

A girl I love is a few months away from graduating from High School. We met a few weeks ago in the “before-time” at a local coffee shop and talked about colleges, scholarships, growing up, and life in general. The sun illuminated her strawberry blond hair as we sat at an outside table with not a care in the world. As I said, it was in The Before.

Now that we have arrived in The After, I can only see pictures of her on FaceBook. She just had her senior pictures taken. What I probably won’t get to see is her dressed in a cap and gown walking across the stage. I won’t see a hundred shots of her in her prom dress with her boyfriend in a matching tie. I won’t see beach pictures of her running in the waves on a rare day off from her summer restaurant job. And we had no time to say goodbye.

Teachers who miraculously scrambled to put their lessons online with one day‘s notice are just now allowing themselves to grieve the loss of being with their kids in person. Healthcare workers are having to quarantine themselves in their garages or at the hospital for fear of infecting their children at the end of work. My Alma Mater just announced that Spring Semester is over. The students moved out weeks ago, thinking they would be back after an extended Spring Break. Now it’s over, don’t come back. It was so unexpected, they had no time for goodbyes.

I miss my congregation so much it stings my eyes every time I think of them. I miss Miss Jean’s sweet bent-over hug. I miss Bonnie’s grin. I miss Jonny’s laughter. I MISS SINGING TOGETHER. God, I miss singing together. I miss them all. I didn’t know that the last time I saw them would be the last time I would see them. No time for goodbye.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when we mourn:

Matthew 5 (The Message)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

When everything you know and love gets stripped away, there is God. For such a time as this, we were made to seek him out for comfort and companionship. Blessings WILL happen in The After.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

This is especially poignant for The After. Being stuck inside allows us to get our inside world put right.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

The After is a time of no goodbyes, but also a time of saying hello to a whole new set of blessings we never would have discovered in The Before. God is with us. We are with each other.

And the good news is, we are one day closer to the end of this thing. Thanks be to God.

One Day Closer by Wende Pritchard