Let’s just, for a moment, take stock of where we are:
- Restaurants and businesses are largely open, but not yet as they were.
- Most churches are offering a time to be together in person, but not fully offering all the opportunities they did.
- We are working, but not working in the same place or in the same proximity as we once were.
- Schools are operating, but not operating in a way that any of us are accustomed to.
- Vaccine progress is going well, but there is still much testing and manufacturing to go before anyone receives a dose.
Meanwhile, COVID marches on and more and more people are testing positive even while we are trying to curb the decline. At the risk of oversimplifying where we are as a people, I think you could say that we are sort of in the middle right now. Sure, we are in the middle of “what’s COVID-19” and “everyone in the world has been vaccinated,” but we are also in the middle of the initial wave of diagnosis and economic shutdown and feeling free to be around the people and activities we love.
This is, in other words, a “meantime.” And though we are not familiar with what happens in this particular meantime, we are familiar with what the “meantime” feels like.
The meantime is that place in between where you used to be and where you want to be. It is that time when you have graduated from college but the job market is dried up so you find yourself working 2 or 3 jobs just to get by. It is that time after one relationship ends and another one begins. It is when you have moved back in with your parents until you can find a place of your own. The meantime is the time after things were really good but before they get good again. And though you could say many things about these varied meantimes, I think categorically you could say that meantimes are difficult times. Scary times. Anxious times. Times that seem to drag on and on and on.
In the meantime, you can feel stuck. Like all you can do is just sit and wait and hope for things to change and get better. I’ve certainly felt that way at times over the last few months – that way at work, at home, and at church. But even so, there is a different posture we can take. It’s not a “pie in the sky” kind of thinking; nor is it the kind of posture that denies the reality of what’s happening. Rather, it’s a posture of reflection, meant to embrace the work of God in and through surprising ways. And maybe taking such a posture begins with asking ourselves a few important questions. Questions like these:
1. What opportunities for faithfulness are there today?
In the meantime – and especially this meantime – the opportunities for faithfulness certainly change. There are all kinds of considerations that should be validly taken into account depending on who you are. And yet even in the midst of those considerations, there are opportunities for everyday faithfulness. Perhaps even heightened opportunities because of the nature of where and when we are. Opportunities for conversation, for kindness, for patience, for generosity, and for understanding – surely these are still present. Abounding even, if we have eyes to see them.
2. Am I medicating my anxiety about the future?
All kinds of meantime make us wonder about what’s next, and right now is no exception to that. We are all wondering what’s next at a variety of different levels, and that constant wondering leads us to anxiety. But then comes the moment of self-examination – what are we doing with that anxiety? How are we handling it? Are we allowing our burdens to be born by others? Are we openly confronting it, bringing it into the light? Or is there a more sinister means of coping that we are currently employing? It’s a good and right moment, in such anxious times, to ask ourselves just how we are dealing with all the uncertainty in the future.
3. How can I die to myself for the sake of another right now?
Christianity is about self-denial. There is no other way. We cannot take up the cross and follow Jesus if our hands are full of our own opinions, perceived rights, and long held privileges. Here we find an opportunity to exercise that daily death to self Jesus told us about. We can, as we follow Him, choose to die to ourselves in conversations, opinions, and service. When we do, we will start to see that though we may be stuck in the meantime, one way in which we can always move forward is in the depth of our relationship with Jesus.
4. What does God’s Word say?
Now here is the simplest of all questions we might ask. And yet behind the simplicity of the questions lies a bunch of assumptions. The question assumes we are reading God’s Word. And not just reading it but believing it. And not just believing it but putting it to work in our own souls, being formed and shaped by it. For though God’s Word might not offer specific instruction about what to do in the midst of a global pandemic, it does offer all kinds of direction about who we are meant to be and how we are to present ourselves as the children of God. Here is a chance to simply read God’s Word, and then take Him at His Word even when the circumstances of life tend to suggest otherwise.
Here we are in the meantime, friends. There was a before, and there will be an after. But in the meantime, there is still good. Still hope. Still soul formation to happen, if we are willing to engage and not just wait until “what’s next” finally becomes “what’s now.”