This summer of cancelled events has become a summer of rest and recreation for me. It has been an opportunity to live differently with more creative ventures, focused work on a long-term project, quietness, and lengthy times of reading the Word. It’s been a time to more frequently sit close with friends, to meditate, to hike in the nearby mountains; a time to see, to create, to be, to listen. Paul Mealor’s setting of “The Beatitudes” has brought beauty both in its quietness and its exuberant rejoicing – a reminder that “all that will be” is not yet.
It’s an unusual season. The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV) come to mind and beg for a stream of consciousness response for our current context, so here goes…
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
This COVID thing…is a just for a season? When will things be normal? Since when is “what I perceive as normal” the ultimate reality? This poet is wiser than I…
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Life has gone on. People have been born and died. Some have planted garden and already harvested a fruitful abundance; some have planted seeds and there is no fruit yet. “What is the purpose of my life?” ask the philosophers among us.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
If this virus could be captured once and for all, it would be killed. Instead, it runs unpredictably about touching some with death and others with a mere cough. Physical healing is not guaranteed, but healing balm comes to all who are poor in spirit and encounter the King.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Sorrow because we cannot be with friends, yet laughter shared with those in the same house. Weeping changed to joy, so writes the psalmist (Psalm 30:5). But then, James says: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).
What is what? Does this make sense? Who is right? (Where does the virus live? Is it only in the air?)
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
Well, social distance, everyone! (but don’t neglect relationships)
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
Gain a summer vacation. Lose a wonderful time of singing with Oasis Chorale. Gain extra time to be still before the Lord (if we turn off the news updates). So, open our hands to give and receive, O Lord.
These difficult times have actually not been that difficult for me in many ways, as I hailed from the great state of Arkansas (and a very rural part of it at that) until the last part of June. At that point we (my wife, Sheri; two children, and I) moved close to Canton, Ohio.
Just enough of my engagements were cancelled to allow me to slow down slightly. Throughout the spring and summer I was able to keep right on working at my job in construction. I was honestly a little disappointed that we didn’t have to shut down for a week or so, but won’t complain too loudly!
One of the worst things about the pandemic for me personally has been the music making opportunities that were lost, such as singing with Oasis Chorale. Also I am planning to attend Malone University in the fall pursuing a music degree, so I’m really hoping that I will be able to attend classes on campus.
I did pick up one new skill during quarantine-disc golf. It’s maddeningly hard to master and also strangely addictive.
Here’s to hoping that by next year thoughts of quarantine and distancing will be but distant memories. Wishing you all a healthy and God-blessed second half of 2020.
That King James turn of phrase from my childhood, “such and such a city,” has often rung in my mind’s ear in the past few months.
Come now, ye that say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain”; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
The Apostle James is chiding his readers against improper certainty. Like those early readers, we too make plans for worthwhile and profitable ventures. Those plans depend on circumstances that are relatively predictable. And up until recently, all the societal cogs hummed along – with wobbles, to be sure, but yet with astonishing reliability.
But now, in a COVID-19 world, “whereas ye know not” has become us. We realize with new clarity what we often forget: we’re not as in control as we tend to think.
That’s where we are as a choir. Our plans for “such and such a city” included Lancaster and Leamington and Walnut Creek. Tour is cancelled, and we are disappointed.
It seems the Apostle James would encourage us not to shout invectives, nor even to posit yet again how this all really should have been handled, but rather to recognize that uncertainty and lack of control are a normal human experience. Perhaps he would encourage us less to fix the external problems (of which there are many), and to acknowledge and work on the internal problems (of which there are many). Specifically, he calls us to deep humility and to recognizing that there are other players in this game besides the obvious ones.
Instead ye ought to say, “If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that.”
“If the Lord will” is more than a pious phrase. It acknowledges a larger Presence in the world. We are not the only ones with plans. Random forces and chance might in some inexplicable way be the glove worn by a mighty hand. The unpredictability of our time may not be something merely to be solved, but something to be noted; not something merely to live through but to live in. If we let it, our discomfort with this present uncertainty can point us to where we can find a true and proper certainty that cannot finally be rattled by the events that make the headlines.