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FIRST-PERSON: Pondering the lessons from a pandemic

NASHVILLE (BP) – A few days ago, an old tweet popped into my timeline. Who knows why someone retweeted it almost a full year later – that’s twitter for you. But reading it again, seeing the accompanying photo of our littlest guy, brought back vivid memories of a very anxious time.

Maybe you’re young and strong and #COVID19 seems like only a nuisance. I pray it is for you.

For immunosuppressed kids like Christopher & others at great risk for very grave consequences, please help #FlattenTheCurve.


When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. – Psalm 56:3

Yeah, I know – there’s so much there. #FlattenTheCurve seems so quaint, doesn’t it? But let’s go back to March 16, 2020. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year; it feels more like 20. But the backdrop for the tweet was a flight home after a sudden change of plans.

As we all prepared to hunker down in our homes for a few days, awaiting the arrival of – well, we weren’t really sure – I took a surreal trip. A half-empty airplane left a nearly deserted airport only to arrive at another. Strangely, a few people wore masks. Everyone wore a look of concern.

And I was afraid.

A full year later, we’ve learned to live with the virus. We’ve chafed under continuing restrictions. We’ve longed for normalcy. And last week, when I received the first dose of vaccine, it seemed odd to realize a load of stress had just fallen away. It had just become part of life, a weight I wore like a mask in public places – without even thinking about it.

I’m indescribably thankful for God’s protection of our family, and especially of our son Christopher, a recipient of heart and kidney transplants who takes daily meds to suppress his immune system. He’s healthy, and we are, too. Yet others have suffered greatly; so many have lost friends or family members. After more than 500,000 U.S. deaths, it’s clear there was very real reason for concern. Still, I’m grateful that for many of us, the pandemic has been a very long, very large nuisance. I’m hopeful and optimistic that for all of us, it may finally be nearing an end.

But in these last few days, as we’ve marked the anniversary of when the world shut down, I wonder: What have we done with this year God has given us? Because he did give us 2020, and all it contained. And if it seems odd to think that way – well, why is that, exactly? As Job reminds us: The LORD gives. The LORD takes away. Blessed be His name.

Throughout our son Christopher’s journey, more than 11 wonderful years now and counting, God has repeatedly shown that He gives us each and every heartbeat.

This one.

And this one.

And this one.

This last year has only reinforced that truth. But lately, I’ve been pondering what else God taught me through a pandemic. Too often the answers were not attractive.

I learned how desirous I am of a comfortable life – and just how entitled I think I am to one. It’s become pretty clear during the last year that even as followers of Christ, many of us have not only bought into the American Dream, we’re also convinced that life in America is supposed to be a dream.

When adversity comes, why is my typical response some combination of fear, anger and frustration? How much of that is because my life or my plans have been disrupted – and how dare that happen?

God has shown me (again) how routinely my aim is off-target. Do I love Him with all that I am … or do I simply want Him to bless everything that I have? Do I love my neighbor as myself … or do I just love myself?

So I hope – I pray – 2020 served to sharpen my focus.

A passage in Acts 20, when Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian elders, includes one of my favorite Bible verses: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24, ESV). I’ve long wanted that to be true of my life. But reading it a few weeks ago, the word “testify” penetrated deeply as I was reminded of my purpose.

The missionary William Carey once said: “What is there in the whole earth worth living for but the glory of God and the salvation of souls?” And he added: “I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

As an old tweet provides a reminder of God’s protection during a pandemic, I’m indescribably grateful. But I’m also convicted that too many times during the past year, I was more concerned about preservation of life than its purpose.

A year later, I’m asking myself: Am I afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter? Or am I simply relieved and ready to get back to living the dream?