Here in Northern Colorado, wildfires are burning uncontrollably. Dry air, no rain, and just plain bad luck have left us with hazy day after hazy day. Sometimes we can even see bits of ash floating down when we venture outside. It all feels so metaphorical for 2020, doesn’t it?
And still, we continue to encounter bumps along this already potholed road.
Several weeks ago, we were enjoying some cooler summer days. Then the announcement of a hybrid model for school gave us a little bounce in our step. After months of isolation, we were thrilled with the hope of progress and our kids getting out of the house. After all, we’ve been holed up for months with teens whose main source of communication with friends is through Snapchat. And I use the term “communication” very loosely, as their correspondence involves sending back-and-forth pictures of a ceiling fan or half their face.
Although that seems to be more effective than the way political leaders are currently communicating with each other. But I digress.
We could finally see a beacon of light.
Actual school! Real people! Looking face to face with teachers, albeit half-covered by masks, but still. Things were looking up.
A mere two days later, after evaluating the strict and rigorous safety guidelines our county required in order to proceed with in-person school, our district announced we were back to square one.
One hundred percent, online school.
I got the news via text message as my 16-year-old daughter and I were dining on the patio of one of our favorite restaurants. In the middle of our discussion about which friends she would get to see in her assigned cohort, we were blindsided by the complete change in direction.
Fully online. Fully isolated. Just like that.
We had to pivot (yet again), our hopes and expectations shattered.
I had grown tired of holding in my emotions and finally let them spill over onto my plate of brisket tacos. I cried for the loss of potential memories and relationships. I cried for the disruption of a new school year before it even began. I cried for all the families and teachers who were experiencing exactly what we were in that moment. Just utter disappointment.
My daughter looked at me with pleading eyes and asked, “When is this going to end?”
I don’t have the answer.
But we dusted ourselves off and marched forward. We read all about the plans for remote learning which begins NEXT WEEK. We bought school supplies and created space in the girls’ rooms for them to learn virtually. We managed to climb out of the pity-party hole we dug for ourselves, and were officially making the most of it.
The kids exchanged cheerful declarations like, “Well, at least we don’t have to pack lunches every morning!” and, “Now I won’t need a hall pass to go to the bathroom!” We pivoted and adjusted, as we’ve grown so accustomed to doing these past 5 months.
But still, frustrations and disappointments continued to sprout up like weeds. School volleyball, football, and other sports are cancelled. Wildfires remain almost zero percent contained. And earlier this week I bit my lip during lunch because apparently eating is hard. And I subsequently bit the exact same spot repeatedly, every time I ate, for the following 3 days.
This is just the way life feels right now, doesn’t it? Just one hit after another. It seems like every time we turn around there is someone standing there delivering a strong left hook, knocking us straight to the ground. Sometimes it just stings a little, and other times we lay there bleeding profusely.
I’ve had to sit and have a talk with God more than once. I get really mad at Him some days. I tell Him all the ways He should be intervening and asking why He can’t figure out a way out of this and just put us all out of our misery. Schools are closing and lips are bleeding. How much more do we have to take!?
I found myself in the book of John this morning. Verse 14:27 rose up off the page and hovered there, inviting me to really take it in. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
And maybe because He knew who He was dealing with, Jesus reminded us yet again, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
We should not be surprised when we face trials.
This world is an extremely imperfect place. Maybe you’ve noticed.
There will be heartache. There will be disappointment. There will be sorrow. There will be fear. There will be online school with mediocre Wi-Fi.
Jesus made no pretenses about what we would face in this world. But as Christ followers, He also promised that He would give us peace. HIS peace.
He knew that we could give our best attempt at faith, but also understood that we are humans. We can’t rely on our own strength in the face of trials and disasters. We weren’t made for it. Maybe you’ve tried, like me, to hold it all together and just keep pretending you’ve got it all covered.
How’s that working out for you? Yeah, me either.
We need the grace and peace of Jesus to face trials. The ones that we know all too well will be placed on the path in front of us. Not just in weird, COVID-pandemical times, but throughout our ENTIRE lives.
His peace can, and will, sustain us.
Sometimes that’s hard to swallow, especially when you’re in the thick of trial or tragedy. But it’s true, and it’s offered to us as a gift.
I know this because I’ve experienced peace even in the midst of this emotional, challenging time. And I know it’s not on my own merit. I simply don’t have the capacity to create a peaceful sanctuary in my heart and mind each and every day.
But He can.
Every time I’m able to lay my head down at night and drift to sleep, it’s HIS peace that allows it to happen.
Anytime I laugh with friends and momentarily forget the weight of everything going on around us, that’s HIS peace. Not mine.
Each time I watch my teenaged daughters get in the car and drive away, it’s HIS supernatural peace that allows me to continue on with my day instead of sitting in the corner in the fetal position.
Look around and see where you find some peace today. Every time I notice it, I’m working on the practice of accepting it, thanking Him for it, and then humbly asking for more.
I think next week I might also humbly ask for His favor in the form of strong Wi-Fi and even stronger coffee.