Not So Hidden Hero

photo courtesy of the British Library on Unsplash

It’s not easy to fight a battle when you can’t see the enemy.

Warfare brings the connotation of enemies coming against each other, weapons ready, to annihilate and destroy for the purpose of a greater end.

In traditional warfare, the enemy is seen. Better understood.

In the battle we fight now, against a virus and all the disillusionment it brings, we struggle to figure out the enemy. To name it is one thing; to know how to effectively fight it is a whole other matter.

We’re not the true warriors now, as we stay away from our social institutions and friends, as we distance ourselves from those who may be carriers of this virus. We’re not the frontline fighters; we are the ones watching from a distance, doing as we’re asked to do.

The true soldiers are the ones serving the rest of us. The doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line to deal with the sick. Those working in grocery stores who stock shelves and deliver food orders. Those who care for people who can’t care for themselves. The first responders who are working to make our cities safe and serve those in trouble.

What is true of any wartime situation is that the few fight to save the many. Those of us not in the battle need to do what we can to make the war effort successful. Pay attention to orders put in place for our safety and well-being. Make it easier for those on the frontlines.

Battles always cost. The consequences of warfare are felt throughout every culture–whether we choose to see it or not. There will be those who distance themselves from the reality of what’s happening, not wanting their lives disrupted by the inconvenience of this virus. Ignoring reality doesn’t make it any less real.

As we approach Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal victory over the brokenness of life and the ugliness of eternal death, it’s easy to forget the battle He waged for our benefit. His gift of forgiveness, love, and grace didn’t come easily.

It came with a cost.

He claimed to be God, which infuriated the Jewish leaders. They saw Him as blasphemous and wanted Him killed. But the Jews weren’t allowed to kill anyone; they had to make it an affront to Caesar to get the Romans to do their dirty work.

The Romans were masters of torture. They flogged Jesus till the skin was stripped from His back. He was hung on a cross with nails driven through His wrists and feet. In that place of pure isolation–separated from His Father for the first time in all eternity–He paid the price for every wrongdoing ever committed, then and in the future. He fought the battle alone; no one else was qualified to do what He did.

He did it to offer us freedom from the disease of darkness that has broken each of us and our world. And He offers the only cure guaranteed to work.

Jesus fought an enemy we can’t conquer alone. The One fought for the many.

He’s the Hero we need to acknowledge.

 

 

 

Please Don’t Fence Me In

photo courtesy of Duong Chung on Unsplash

When I was in first grade, my teacher was a stickler for coloring within the lines.

I had a rather cavalier attitude about crayons; I wasn’t particular about lines because I daydreamed while coloring. I wouldn’t pay attention to the edges–which got me “messy” stickers.

My twin sister, however, was a neat and clean color creator. She got stars on her papers.

I learned her trick. She colored dark lines around the edges so she’d be sure to notice them.

In school, it was essential to work within the lines. Write within the margins. Make sure the letters sat correctly on the lined pages. Play within the limits of the playground. Stay in your seat unless given permission to get up.

Growing up often dims our appreciation for margins and lines. How many of us really enjoy being told what we can and can’t do? What child, as they grow, doesn’t believe they know everything?

I’ve been there. At times I’m still there. Being restricted by someone else doesn’t always sit well with me.

At a time when we’re globally restrained by the needs of something bigger than all of us individually, it’s important to remember one significant thing.

Confinement of the body is not confinement of the soul. We need to think outside the box–and feel comfortable with coloring outside the lines.

I love a good routine that works for me. A way of doing things with somewhat expected results. We are, by nature, creatures of habit.

I’m finding it rather freeing right now to be forced outside the usual. New ways of doing my job, of connecting with people, of accomplishing what is important to me.

And who’s to say different isn’t better? Just because I haven’t done something a certain way before doesn’t mean it isn’t a really good option.

Jesus was adept at changing the way things were done. He entered a world full of rules and laws that were oppressive from both sides. The Romans had laws that they adapted to their whims and needs. If their rulers wanted more money, they made a way to get it. Not caring who suffered in the process. The Jewish leadership, the Pharisees, had so many laws to follow in order to be a good Jew that no one could even come close.

Jesus didn’t come to disregard the law. That’s the recipe for chaos. He did come to fulfill it, to pay a price we couldn’t so we could receive a gift we don’t deserve. His grace and mercy in exchange for our brokenness.

Such a new way of doing things made sense to some, frustrated many, and angered others. Jesus did life differently, coloring outside the lines of comfort and expectation for a more spectacular, beautiful, and complete picture.

When Jesus brought a new way, it was so much better than how people had attempted to engage God before. With Jesus, we come on His merit. Not on whether we’re good enough or not.

That’s a creative difference we can all live with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What About Tomorrow?

photo courtesy of Mike Ostrovsky on Unsplash

I used to walk at 5:30 in the morning, a time I valued because of quiet, no traffic, and no people.

Walking at 9:00 in the morning is now the same quiet–with more sunlight.

There’s an unusual hush hovering over life now that is both calming and concerning. Calming because people are forced to let go of the busyness of work and doing and step into a new normal of “less than”. Concerning because it brings up new worries–questionable paychecks, missed activities that have defined much of our lives, loneliness.

On this walk, I noticed something I hadn’t considered.

The flowers still bloomed. New leaves still appeared on trees. Grass still grew.

I’ve never seen a panicked flower or tree. It’s hard to imagine a tree so uncomfortable with where it will get its next drink of water that it’s shaking at its very roots. Trembling so hard it’s losing its leaves.

There are dry seasons that affect all growing things. Our back yard right now looks pathetic in its crispiness because we haven’t watered in a while. Rain has been scarce, so the water level is down and plants rely on us to help them out.

These things aren’t life changers. Rain will eventually come and refresh the trees, flowers, and ponds. It will take more than a season of dry to destroy them. Inconvenience and disruption aren’t problems. They’re opportunities to view things in a new light.

We’re all in a season of dry–where life isn’t flowing around us as we’d like, availability of the things we believe we need is limited, people contact is discouraged.

A good friend of mine used a word that describes what many are feeling–cheated. Cheated out of chances to finish things as expected, cheated with lost experiences that may not be able to be repeated–proms, graduations, weddings. Cheated out of hope, a future.

Cheated out of knowing what we can expect of tomorrow.

The truth is none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. What we have is this moment, today. Planning is good and necessary, but we’re not in control of things that enter our lives and change the trajectory of expectations.

God understands that discomfort. He knows how much we want to control our lives, our circumstances.

We can’t.

He doesn’t want us to panic about what we can’t control. There’s a passage in the Bible that talks about not worrying about life, what we eat or what we wear. Our lives are defined by so much more than that. He points to birds who do nothing to provide for a greater good, but they’re fed. And flowers that do nothing yet are clothed in color and beauty without worry.

We, as God’s highest creation, are of even greater value to Him. If we seek Him first, trust Him for what we need, He will provide those needs.

Try Him. Seek Him with a sincere heart and see if He is faithful.

God is greater than our understanding, more powerful than words we use to try to explain Him.

He puts panic to rest and worry out of its misery.

Because He is.

 

 

 

The Sun Will Shine Again

photo courtesy of Nelson Santos, Jr. on Unsplash

As much as I’m uncomfortable with the dark, the space right before dawn, where dark gives way to light, where what was hidden becomes seen, is my favorite time of day.

Here in Florida, the anticipation of the sun is a daily happening. Rare are the days that are completely cloudy and the sun doesn’t shine at all.

As I sit on my porch, the air is a little cooler, colors are dustier, and birds compete to be heard. I have friends who are birders, and they would know which bird sings which song. The best I can do is imagine what they’d look like as their music fills the air with unique sounds.

This is space to breathe.

The light begins its slow and steady appearance, where birds flying by can be seen as shadows. There’s no clear demarcation yet; the leaves on trees morph together in a mass of grayish-green, and the lawn is a subdued blanket of indistinguishable blades of grass. The surface of the pond is dark and opaque.

God begins to move the dimmer switch to bright, and with each passing moment, hues become obvious, birds become distinct in coloring, and individual leaves on the tree can be identified. The Great Conductor is allowing the orchestra to warm up to present the new day in all its glory.

When the sun crests the horizon, everything becomes clear. What was unidentifiable in darkness has been given clarity in light.

We’re in that waiting period before there is an understanding of the global situation of COVID19. Every day brings new statistics and rules to follow.

We’re in that space where we need to breathe. Where the dark has lingered and will soon dissipate into dawn.

We know this to be true: darkness can’t last forever. What we fear now is what we don’t know. What we can’t control. What we don’t want.

It’s so much easier to focus on what’s wrong, what’s bad, the problems that crop up because of our circumstances. Many are forced to shelter in place. People are losing jobs, aren’t bringing in paychecks, don’t know how they’ll provide for their families. These are real issues, tough problems that will need to be solved.

I’ve also seen the beauty of people reaching out to others, bringing supplies to those in need, groceries to those who can’t get out, a sense of hope to those who’ve lost it. My daughter-in-law is a physician’s assistant, and she’s been working tirelessly to help those get needed care even though she has three young boys at home who could become infected by what she brings to the house. Non-profits, like A Precious Child in Denver where my daughter works, have redoubled efforts to help those in need.

Crises can bring out the best in us. It’s when we allow the wonderful gifts God has invested in each of us to shine through for the sake of others. It’s how we look beyond our fear to help those who may be hurting more than we are.

This darkness won’t last. God has said that even darkness is as light to Him, for He is greater than any darkness we might confront. Greater than our worst fears.

There is Light at the end of this tunnel. I guarantee it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are We Going To Do This Thing?

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark.

In all honesty, I’m not comfortable with the dark today. I tolerate being alone at night.

I remember fearing monsters in the closet. Not so much under the bed–I always had the top bunk. But the closet held fears that increased as the house became quiet.

I’d situate myself in the exact center of the bed, arms at my side, covered to my chin with a blanket. Even when it was miserably hot–and Chicago nights were notorious for unceasing heat. As long as I was under the blanket, I was safe. I don’t remember giving that covering any superpowers, but I knew it would protect me.

As an adult, I know how foolish that sounds. There are no monsters in the closet. No blankets exist that have the power to protect anybody.

But fear is real. People are experiencing unknown fear because nobody knows how long this self-isolation will last, how long business, as usual, will not be usual, nor how many will be affected by this virus.

The unknown can be frightening.

John and I chose to go to one of the big box stores that had hours designated for different age groups. Fewer people and a chance to get a few odds and ends.

Were we wrong.

We arrived as the store was opening, and the line to get in went two ways–one to the right with the people who were allowed in first, and one to the left with the folks who would be allowed in an hour later.

Social distancing was a joke. Everyone crowded together wanting to get in as soon as they could. We talked to a couple who stood there, debating whether or not they wanted to join the queue, and all of us chuckled at how what was intended to help wasn’t helping at all.

The gentleman said, “They’re all scared because they don’t know when this will end.”

Nobody knows. But God.

There are three different responses to this pandemic.

Some are sneering, if not in word then in action. They aren’t taking social distancing seriously; they don’t see a truth relevant to them and don’t want to be restricted.

Some are intrigued by the reality, and they do what they can but they’re not diligent.

Others are true believers that this is something that must be dealt with dramatically, willing to stay home and keep their distance from others.

These are typically the responses to the reality of God. Some sneer at His relevance to our needs today; others are intrigued but won’t be bothered. Still, others believe. They will find His peace.

At a time when fear blankets our nation, our world, because of a tangible enemy, a virus no one can defeat at this time, it makes sense to consider an answer that will bring a sense of peace and wholeness in spite of illness, shortages, lack of job security, and fear.

Knowing God through His Son Jesus brings a sense of calm that can’t be shaken or taken.

And no one has to stand in line for it.