He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).
My husband is teaching me how to lay stone. It’s dirty, heavy, tedious work. After spreading seven tons of gravel (thank you Aidan and Luke!) and tamping it down, a two-inch layer of sand had to be screed into which the concrete stones could be set like a puzzle. The hard part, in my opinion, was maintaining a consistent pitch that would ensure the rainwater would flow away from the house.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about the evolution of this patio. It started out as a fire pit in the grass. Then, because our backyard is on a slope, we decided it might be helpful to lay some stone into the grass to make the seating space more level. When that didn’t pan out, we discussed grading the immediate area, and that led to a design for a full-blown patio with a rock retaining wall.
Normally, we wouldn’t have turned such a small project into such an extravagant endeavor, but COVID made it possible. That sounds so strange to admit, but it’s true. Because we didn’t vacation this year, we had extra money with which to expand the size of the patio. Because we hardly ever leave the house, we had the time to invest in doing the work of a large-scale project ourselves. And because teens seem to have more time on their hands during this pandemic, we were able to employ the physical labor of several youth from our church.
The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" (3:1). This appears to be the season for improvements.
Approximately 200 countries are currently engaged in talks to dispense the COVID-19 vaccine safely and equitably worldwide when it becomes available. This kind of collaboration is unprecedented and gives me hope in future global alliances. Companies that can’t do business as usual are shaking up operations. This gives me hope that leaders will become better at leading, and employees will become better at delivering. Parents are gaining firsthand insight on how their children learn and how teachers teach, and teachers are getting a better view of family life for individual students. This transparency gives me hope that parent-teacher relationships will be strengthened for the betterment of education for all. Churches are learning how to minister to people without direct contact as they extend their reach beyond the borders of their communities. This gives me hope that the church universal will experience a revival of miraculous proportions.
We’ve come so far in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, there are many who can’t see the forest for the trees. Caught up in the brushstrokes of their picture-perfect lives, the bird’s eye view eludes them.
Like the writer of the psalms, we can cry out, How long, Lord, how long? (Psalm 6:3) How long will this pandemic go on? How long will I have to wear a face mask? How long before the kids return to school? How long before I can celebrate holidays with my family? How long before things return to normal?
I can’t help but think that it would be a setback for individuals, communities, and nations to return to pre-pandemic “normalcy”. Our God has something better planned for us. I’m reminded of Jonah who ran away from the Lord and was subsequently swallowed by a whale. In his anguish, he cried for God’s aid, acknowledging, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).
The world and everything in it belongs to God, and God alone. Yet we act as if we deserve an easy life, as if we are entitled to it. We don’t, and we aren’t. God never promised this. What he did say was, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Like Jonah, we can either fight God or get on board with His agenda to make all things new.
For many years I worked in the education sector. I watched as state mandates expanded making it harder and harder for teachers to care for individual students. I flinched every time a poor administrator was moved to a new location instead of being fired. I ached when vocational options like home economics, shop, art and music encountered the chopping block, forcing some students to ignore their God-given talents. I saw anxiety rates soar as upperclassmen struggled to pass state tests in order to get into colleges they were not ready to attend. I see a broken system, and though I am a huge proponent of public education, I truly understand why many parents opt to homeschool their children.
Perhaps this pandemic will force schools to take a closer look at how they administer education, force companies to take a closer look at how they do business, force families to take a closer look at how they do life, and force churches to take a look at how they do ministry. Couldn’t we all do better? Instead of complaining about what we’ve lost, couldn’t we strive to improve upon what we have? God instructs us in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Change is never easy, but if we truly trust God and believe in His promises, He will lead us to a land flowing with milk and honey. With willing hearts and advent-like hope, we can proclaim with confidence that "it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:26).
Weather permitting—and God willing—my new patio should be complete by Christmas. As each additional stone is laid, I catch a glimpse of how it will look when finished. It is a work in progress. Perhaps this is how God views each of us. There is still a lot of effort and refining ahead, but the final product promises to be outstanding!
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle.
Lyrics: “When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You, I will trust, I will trust in You.”