“When will things actually get back to normal?” From coast to coast, this unfathomable question echoes throughout our morphing country. New York City is looking more like Gotham, and the 405 is deserted, suspended in time, movie-like. There is eeriness in our streets and in our souls.
Acts 20:1 of the Message translation Bible starts with these very words: ‘When everything went back to normal…’ or as the New Living Translation puts it- ‘when the uproar had ended’. Luke was transitioning out of chapter 19 with a sense of hurried, yet godly relief. The Ancient Ephesus setting filled up with unbelievable miracles and insane opposition while the Apostle Paul still had much to accomplish. Who wants an uproar and an upset to mess their plans up? He certainly didn’t need all this rioting and re-routing.
I’m a strategist. I’m an activator. I’m a realist. It simply means that I love to make plans, I love to get my plans going, and I love to include people in my plans. This most unusual and surreal season has forced me to let go of my meticulously thought out plans, and has caused me to examine my essential input and output. And so, in this moment, just as I’m pondering whether new plans are better than old plans, or wise, or timely; then, just then, He whispers softly to me, “Your plans are not being stripped DOWN to the bare essentials, but they’re being filled UP to the beautiful essentials: loving me, and loving mine.” The time will come, when God wills it, to make some of these plans afresh with our loved ones, with our wider families and communities, rejoice with them, and party even louder than we were going to before.
For now, we are reminded of our solid, spiritual essentials. God is here. He is seeing, hearing, present with us in the most lonely of human suffering, and the most concerning of futures.
And as I write, I am being called out to our back yard, minutes before dusk, as a rainbow— no, wait, a double rainbow!— calls out the beauty of God’s promise to mankind. That He would never, ever think of destroying our fallen race. Instead, this double rainbow stands tall, as the Cross of Jesus does, calling our humanity to its highest purpose and relationship with our Creator. There is beauty in these essential moments- soaring up to God’s ideals. Just as there is bound to be disappointment, pain and suffering, hope, beauty and holiness can be found in these unusual moments. Truly. All things working together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.
This stretching season calls us uniquely to living a life filled with the essential rather than the ephemeral. Focusing on the sincere rather than the superficial. Remembering true friendship. Unwavering loyalty. Selfless generosity. Solid. True to God. And true to one another. Truly loved. Truly loving. Truly sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Churches, like individuals, reveal themselves in times of crisis. When hard-pressed, we at Bayside are adapting fast. Adapting from onsite to online. Not just because we must, but because we want to. We want to keep connected to God, to one another, and to our communities. Feeling the pulse of our community is our heart beat, and I watch with awe how God is still walking our streets, one bag of groceries on a doorstep at a time. One person in our blood drive at a time. One prayer at a time. One Zoom small group at a time. One act of compassion at a time. Faith is at its best, even in the hardest of times.
-Isabelle McCourt, Bayside Prayer staff