Last week I was in front of a fan, sipping boba and planning for the next Zoom class I’d teach. Today I’m huddled under a blanket next to a space heater, sipping a cup of not-hot-enough coffee.
I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t foresee my COVID-19 story involving a hurried departure, a crisis goodbye.
How did this happen?
It’s beyond me.
How can life change so significantly in the span of one week’s time?
It’s beyond me.
How on earth can a little pathogen wreak this havoc on such an advanced world? How can it leave the best doctors, researchers, professionals stumped and unsure of answers? How is it possible for this global upheaval to even reach little old me, sending my plans for a well-lived goodbye through the paper shredder?
It’s beyond me.
It’s significant in and of itself that we can say that every person in our world is affected by COVID. And, like many of you reading this post, my life has drastically changed because of the pandemic. The changes were quick, abrupt, and sharp. And it all feels like this could take a long time to heal.
Our world is collectively grieving right now. Whether you’re grieving the abrupt end of a season as I am, or whether your COVID-induced grief looks different, it is grief all the same. This has brought tremendous loss to our world. Loss of life, community, access, finances, freedoms, health.
Grief is a process that needs to be entered, walked through, waded into. It can’t be bypassed or ignored. So please hear me that what I’m saying next is not suggesting a bypass.
But maybe a pause.
Truly, all of this is beyond me.
So maybe I need to look beyond me.
One of the hardest things about this global pandemic is the unknown time frame. While all the experts are chiming in with their opinion on when lockdowns might end, economies might reopen, and travel might resume, the bottom line is no one truly knows. The finish line is unbelievably blurry. I feel like within the past week or two, I could feel a new measure of weariness about this unknown, I’ve felt it within me and around me.
John Mark Comer defines this unknown as a “holy uncertainty” (listen here), our capacity to live with a loose grip on what might happen next. He explains that Christian mystics feel that holy uncertainty is one of God’s best ways to help us release a fear-based control grip on our lives and our futures. Maybe living in this holy uncertainty can help us release the illusion of control we have on ourselves, our people, our plans, our lives.
The COVID-19 finish line is unbelievably cloudy. The finish line for my journey of re-entry is completely undetermined. The finish line for your current difficulty is impossible to declare.
It all truly is a holy uncertainty.
But there’s another finish line. One far beyond ourselves. One laid out in the heavenlies in ages past and one that will be celebrated for ages to come.
Jesus saw it. The writer of Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before Him Jesus endured the cross. That joy was not set right ahead of him, just outside his grasp. Between that joy and his present reality lay suffering and isolation and uncertainty beyond what any man has ever known.
But Jesus looked beyond that.
Right now, if I look ahead of me, I see mounds of things to process. I see months that look hard and mountains of grief and loss to walk through. If I look within me, I do not see rivers of joy. It all looks cloudy, and hard, and long.
So instead of looking ahead of me or within me, I will choose to look beyond me.
I will look, as Jesus did, to the Joy set before Him. Not within him, not just around the corner, but before him. I will follow His example and endure.
It will be hard. It will be painful. It will be a holy uncertainty.
But Jesus did it. He looked before, He looked beyond. And He endured.
On the other end of endurance is not only a stronger skin, a tougher constitution. Beyond this lies joy.
My friends, these days are hard. The days ahead might be really hard too. But let’s follow Jesus and look beyond. Knowing that as we wade through the hard tomorrow might hold, nothing changes the joy that lies beyond.
He did it. He endured. He made it to that joy. Let’s follow.