When will this isolation end?
When can we go out again?
When will we be able to gather again?
And without answers, we sit … and wonder … and wait.
Yet what we are waiting for will never come. We want to go back to the way it was before: before the virus, before the isolation, before the fear. Before the waiting. But we can never go back. It will never be the same. It can’t be. Because time changes things. Time changes us. Time changes everything.
I remember the first time I went home for Christmas during my freshman year of college. I’d been away for six months, and I stepped into a world that was at the same time both familiar and strange. It was an almost eerie feeling that lingers strong in my memory all these decades later. The kids I knew who were still there—kids I’d played football and soccer with, had sung with in the school choir, had danced with and shared life with…they were the same, but different. Their lives had gone on. Without me. It was a shocking reality.
Other returns bring similar challenges: Soldiers return from war as different men and women than when they left. Missionaries return from their missions, whether two weeks or two years or two decades, and they have changed. Travelers return from their trips different. And while those who have gone are changed, they are not the only ones; those who remained are different, as well. More subtly, perhaps, but different nonetheless. Time and experiences transform us.
And so it will be when our present waiting ends: we will be changed. What that change will be, what it will look like, can be guessed, but not predicted. Some will emerge more confident, others more fearful. Some will be strengthened in their faith. Some will question more: faith, science, government, people….
Adding to the challenge of the isolation itself is that In these days of waiting, we’re not sure what we’re feeling. There’s a sadness, but we can’t explain it because there’s nothing to be sad about; anger, yet we’ve not been wronged. Or maybe that’s just it: there is something to be sad about; we have been wronged. A disease has been foisted upon us that we had nothing to do with, and it’s changing everything.
And in the change, there is a loss we feel. A very real, very legitimate loss. It's the loss of freedom in a free country. The loss of business just when things were starting to look good. The loss of relationships and connections and hugs we so desperately need. And loss brings grief and anger and change and discomfort and … and so much more. And all we can do, it seems, is sit. And wait. And wonder.
Or is there something more? Is there a different perspective? A different kind of waiting?
Maybe this is an opportunity to rekindle a relationship with the God who has been waiting for you—waiting for you to seek him out, to fall in love with him again. Maybe it’s an opportunity to soak in his Word, whether that means reading large chunks at one time or sitting quietly with just a verse or two.
Maybe this is an opportunity to pray. Or learn to pray. To Pause in God's presence and enjoy his quiet company. To Rejoice in God's goodness, mercy, sovereignty, and love. To Ask for God's mercy, healing, forgiveness ... even for release from this exile! And finally, to Yield to what God has for us, the good plan
Perhaps never in our lifetimes have the circumstances of our own lives been so appropriate to the words of God to his people in exile:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)