DON’T STAY STUCK IN THE SHOULDS

 

Today is September 1, and for me it represents the beginning of autumn.  The first of the BER months.  When everything seems new again.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  I like everything about fall: the vivid colors on the trees, the crisp, cool air, the excitement of children going back to school, football games, and pumpkin patches.  I love it all.  I even enjoy the nights getting a little longer.  Autumn is such a rich season, a season of harvest and plenty.

 

But this is 2020 and everything is different and definitely not what I planned.  I should be over-the-top excited about Sooner football starting, but it’s more like, “Meh.”  We won’t be going to the games in Norman this year (if they actually have games).  Instead, we took the option of rolling our tickets over into 2021.  It isn’t because we are afraid of getting COVID, but rather because sitting in a stadium that is three-quarters empty and cheering through a mask just doesn’t sound like fun.  No tailgating, no Boomer Bash…the game day experience, like everything else in 2020, will be dramatically different.  Not like it should be.

 

This is the year the Sooners were scheduled to play Army as an away game.  Jerry and I should be going to West Point like we planned.  But not this year.  Cancelled!  How many events have been cancelled in 2020?

 

I guess the first cancellations that hit us, like everyone else, were the large-group gatherings.  We couldn’t go to church for many weeks, and we are only just now allowed to go back.  We couldn’t go out to a restaurant for weeks; in fact our only outing for quite a while was a trip to the grocery store.  Jerry and I cancelled our annual family trip to Rosemary Beach in the early summer.  We didn’t get to see our granddaughter graduate from high school.  We couldn’t be in the hospital waiting room while a daughter had surgery or a granddaughter gave birth.  You have your own stories of cancelations this year: weddings, funerals, school events, and family reunions.  Milestone events that were missed.  Things that should have happened didn’t.  Life should not be like this!

 

As I have been pondering these things on this September morning I am amazed at my own contentment.  I learned a long time ago that expectations are premeditated resentments.  I’ve learned not to be caught up in the “shoulds,” even when the “shoulds” are true.  It’s true: life shouldn’t be like this, there shouldn’t be rioting and looting in our streets, people shouldn’t hate each other, my grandchildren should be able to go to school in person and shouldn’thave to wear masks, and by golly, there should be football as usual!  But what should be isn’t, and staying stuck in the “shoulds” is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.  Instead I need to accept what is and learn to deal with it.  This has definitely been the year to roll with the punches.  And amidst all these cancellations, this uncertainty, I have peace.

 

That peace comes from knowing God.  The God I know created this world, and saw this year coming before time existed.  Nothing has taken Him by surprise.  He is our refuge, our safe place when all our familiar props have been knocked out from under us.  He is there when the world faces a pandemic, when we lose our jobs, when our stock accounts shrink overnight, when all our plans have been disrupted and even plan B doesn’t work.  He is there when the “shoulds” turn to “should nots.”  I can trust Him because I have walked with Him for many years and know Him to be faithful and true to his word.  Every morning I ask for new marching orders because I know my own agenda is not what matters and may be cancelled anyway.  So I don’t stay stuck in the “shoulds.”  I go to Him with what is, and ask Him what to do because He has a perfect plan for me.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells me what to do:

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPPOSITE DAY

While I was having my quiet time this morning, a memory from years ago popped into my mind.  It was the memory of Opposite Day, a day my children would designate as a day when nothing was as it was expected.  A no-means-yes-and-yes-means-no day.  And that part of the day alone could trip up a conscientious mother into giving consent to something unintended.  Opposite Day might mean pajamas for day wear and pancakes for dinner.  It was a day to wear your shoes on the wrong feet.  On Opposite Day the only thing you could expect was the unexpected.  At this point you might be scratching your head and wondering why I would think about these things during my quiet time.  The simple explanation is that sometimes my mind is like a runaway train!  But I think I can offer a better explanation of how I got here.

A few days ago I was listening to evangelist Lance Wallnau speak about the trials we are enduring in 2020.  (Disclaimer: I really don’t know much about Wallnau or his theology but I thought this particular message was powerful.)  The year is not even half over, and already we have had a plague of biblical proportions, a global shutdown, economic free-fall, chaos on our streets, and the threat of flying creatures called murder hornets.  And now we have a tropical storm/hurricane bearing down on the gulf coast.  It makes me wonder how people could simultaneously quarantine and evacuate.  One particular point Wallnau made reached out and grabbed me, and has stayed with me.  He was speaking about the church coming out of quarantine when he said, “What if out of containment comes enlargement?” 

Those words eloquently expressed some thoughts I have been having on my own.  What if God has allowed us as believers to go through this time of isolation to prepare us for something big He is going to do?  That idea seems to me to be consistent with what I know about God.  He does the unexpected.  He acts in ways that are contrary to the ways we would expect because his ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).  A primary example of this would be in the way Jesus came to earth.  People expected a conquering king, but instead God sent a helpless baby born into humble circumstances.  

So what if God is preparing His church for something new, something big?  What if out of this time of isolation we experience a unity and togetherness like the early church described in Acts.  What if out of these economic hardships we discover riches we have taken for granted?  What if out of confusion comes understanding, out of pain comes rebirth, out of lockdown comes opportunity, and out of a time of quiet comes a Great Awakening?  What if the church becomes THE CHURCH?!  What if we see a new fulfillment of this promise from Isaiah 43:19:

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Wallnau went on to issue these exhortations for believers during this time: we must seek His face, hear His voice, understand His will, and be his witnesses.  I don’t think I could say it any better.  This is our time.  Prepare to see God do something new.