How are we doing, everybody? Matt and I went to Lowe’s for a lawn mower spark plug on Sunday, him and me in face masks. Someone at church made them for us. I jokingly said, “Make sure his fabric works for a pastor.” She chose black skulls and flowers for him, if you need a smile for today. I’m pretty sure Pastor Matt looked like he should have been paying for the spark plug and then jumping on a Harley.
It’s been quite a month. For a while there I felt like I was trying to tread water with all of my clothes on.
I became a grandma on April 6, to a perfect little Lewis Parker, but black fear often swirled around the days before he arrived, until I couldn’t breathe sometimes. And all of that happened while our school shut down and I became a remote teacher overnight.
Stress. Fear. Wondering. Covid-19 reports included a death in our valley, and I knew his name and his face and his beloved wife.
I’ve bobbed my head up out of the water of emotions many times, to find joy and to laugh in this ordeal, only to sink back down at unexpected times and with unexpected force.
I’ve been laboring through a passage of Scripture that has been a hard pill to swallow but also just the medicine of truth I’ve needed, so I’d like to take that apart for you here. Maybe it will help you as it has helped me. This is Romans 5:2b-5 (NIV) deconstructed:
We rejoice in our sufferings. Because we know that
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
This whole passage made me feel unsettled. First of all, why does hope have to stand in line behind suffering, perseverance, and character? I feel like hope has been required to stand at the social distancing of six feet. So close, yet out of touching range.
Then I felt cranky because I couldn’t figure out the character thing. I marched into the bedroom, where Matt was enjoying his morning coffee, and said, “Can you please tell me what in the world character has to do with hope?”
“I can,” he said. He patiently explained to his impatient wife that when we suffer and persevere and grow in character, we can look at how we’re growing and feel confident that God is real and at work in our lives. That awareness of God’s presence and his work gives us hope.
Hmmmph. That’s what I said.
But he’s right. He’s always right. I’ve had a lot of stretching and growing moments through the length of this quarantine. And yes, I can see God at work in building my character (even if my quarantine buddies will agree I still have a long way to go), and that does reassure me of how real and purposeful and good he is. It makes me hopeful of someday heaven, when I will be fully sanctified.
Just like in Lowe’s, where the lines were insanely long and all customers were spaced at six-foot increments, so we stand in the square of suffering and then move forward to the square of perseverance and then move forward to the square of character development and THEN finally arrive at the coveted square of hope.
Hope doesn’t disappoint us, but I’m going to be flat out honest and tell you that the path to get there has disappointed me a bit. I wanted walk-to-the-front-of-the line easy. No line. No waiting.
Matt and I weren’t willing to wait in line at Lowe’s on Sunday, because our grandson might have graduated from high school before we could have bought our spark plug. But I am willing to wait in the line for hope. I do want hope.
How have you seen God shaping your character during the last month?