Goodness and growth come with God as our guide
Folks, our world has been rocked.
As some of you know, I am the chief spokesperson and head of crisis communications for the University of Mary Washington. I realize we are all weary of hearing the term, but this IS an unprecedented time – we have a crisis within a crisis: a pandemic along with a wave of anger and anxiety. Oh – and for those of you who believe trouble comes in threes: have you heard that this is predicted to be a highly destructive hurricane season?
How do we cope? For Christians, the answer is clear: FAITH.
Faith has been a constant companion during my 63-year journey, and I’ll share a few stops along the way.
I was 23 and my sister was 21. Our family had been keeping a hospital vigil as my mother lay dying of cancer. We told our dad to go home and take a brief break. So …that left the two of us at bedside when my mother drew her last breath.
I looked at my sister and said, “Nothing will ever be the same.”
My girls were young. I had worked a full day, come home and fixed supper, then started bathtime, wondering when their dad would ever be home from the office. As they were splashing in the tub water, my phone rang. “Mrs. Billingsley: This is the Fredericksburg Rescue Squad. Your husband has suffered a seizure in his car, we have him and are on our way to the hospital.”
I quickly phoned my best friend to come and watch the girls as I dashed to the ER. I said to her, in passing: “Nothing will ever be the same.”
I was teaching a class at University of Mary Washington when a fellow faculty member rushed in and said a plane had flown into the Twin Towers. Class quickly disbanded, and I became glued to the TV, watching the horrors of a country under attack.
Schools let out early, and when I picked up my girls, I said to them: “Nothing will ever be the same.”
It’s 2020. I’m working from home, I steer clear of public places – even my church – and I visit with friends and family via electronic devices. People around the world are doing the same. Coronavirus has gripped the globe.
I say to myself: “Nothing will ever be the same.”
My mother, a kindergarten teacher who yearned for grandchildren, wasn’t around to meet them – or to be present at my wedding, for that matter. My husband’s seizure led to brain surgery, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and a year-long driving prohibition. We all know the effects of 9/11 – fear of things we had taken for granted, such as flying and going to the top of skyscrapers, took root in our souls.
As for the impact of COVID-19, the long term verdict is still out. Immediate effects, though, are that we are staying in or close to our homes, we’re participating in church via Facebook or YouTube, we’re wearing masks if we venture out, we’re having groceries delivered, we’re holding meetings via Zoom, and we are trying to wrap our heads around unimaginable death counts and infection rates.
Now, we are witnessing protests – most peaceful but some leading to tear gas and other outcomes – about systemic racism in America.
As I mentioned previously – this could be viewed as a crisis within a crisis. But it’s all a matter of perspective. Not to diminish death, illness, and destruction, maybe this is an opportunity within an opportunity.
We are being forced to pause, reflect, mourn, pray, adapt, and appreciate.
In times of crisis and upheaval, we seem to focus on all that we’ve lost. However, in this age of constant acceleration, think about what we have gained from days of quarantine (other than a few pounds!): less need to drive, greater opportunities to commune with nature, more time to spend with our loved ones and to pursue our passions.
When COVID-19’s rampage diminishes, I pray we hang on to those positive values and habits.
We have seen good come from both disruptions – one health-related; the other societal and cultural. Greater kindness, and maybe more open minds, endless donations and “Thank yous” and words of encouragement to essential workers, first responders, those in need. Refreshments for protesters. Food or flower deliveries to senior citizens, cards sent to nursing homes, more electronic connections to far flung family. Greater grace extended to people of color.
We now have a chance to reinvent and create a better world where we can all work, rest and play in the new normal.
Whether it’s a pandemic, a social uprising, a terrorist attack, death of a family member, or diagnosis of an illness – anything that creates the sense that nothing will be the same — Christians can and will persevere. Faith can and will overcome fear.
Paul said in Romans 5:3-4, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Farther along in Romans, Paul proclaims: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.”
God is watching over us. His desire is to strengthen us, build us up, and bless us. If we want to witness rainbows, we need to trust Him during the storms.
Here is my prayer: When things appear to never be the same, believe it, embrace it, and look to God for a brighter, better tomorrow.
I don’t usually like viral things (like coronavirus and popular social media posts) but I was taken by this poem, and it means more now that I know about the young woman who wrote it.
Leslie Dwight was 13 years old when she learned that her father, who passed away when she was just a newborn, had actually died by suicide. This tragic revelation taught her the importance of staying resilient during trying times.
She said, “I think that people are feeling that lack of hope now, but they need to remember it is still there.”