July 18, 2020
Have you ever seen those shows (my mind goes immediately to the old black and white Twilight Zone episodes) when something confusing is going on and suddenly everything moves to freeze-frame? Why freeze-frame? Because everything in the episode was in an active state of chaos or really scary at a bare minimum; someone – usually the main character – needed the time to make sense of it all. For a brief time, everything would stop in mid-action while the designated character walked around pondering and drawing conclusions. Rod Serling would then summarize the moral of the episode for the viewer as the screen faded to a vision of expanding stars and we heard the words: “until next time…when we enter The Twilight Zone.” It was a bit unsettling to know that there was ‘more’ awaiting us in the twilight zone, but thanks to the freeze-frame walkabout and Serling’s ‘explanation from beyond,’ at least we understood this episode!
It seems to me that we are currently in our own Twilight Zone episode. The things that have happened in our world in the last 6-1/2 months have been truly chaotic, truly scary, and there is no sign of things letting up. It all can leave us feeling depressed, angry, hopeless, judgmental – so many things! I wish we could just freeze-frame this whole time period, do a walkabout and find some hope and light in the midst of it all…..!
Simple enough words – almost annoyingly trite words! Then I remember that Paul was writing these words either from a prison cell or at the very least while under house arrest and these words become empowering. Paul was a well-educated Jew, once respected by all – but when he became a self-described ‘servant of Christ, his physical life was in constant jeopardy! Read 2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 sometime for a thumbnail sketch of Paul’s life; it was definitely a challenging one! Yet, in the midst of it all, Paul wrote REJOICE! Perhaps he freeze-framed his circumstances and made a mental walkabout as God showed him the causes for joy and gratitude which were present even in the midst of his dark situation.
So…what if…for the next few minutes,…we sat still and did a mental walkabout of our current circumstances. What if, during this mental freeze-frame, we looked for things to be grateful for? And, no, I am not little Mary Sunshine; besides, I only know a couple of verses of KumBayah! But I DO know that even in the midst of the darkest times and most unsettling chaos, there are glimpses of light to encourage us to continue on. What kind of light is that? For me, it is the light of God I see working in and through the lives of those around me.
Now, I am in no way intending to trivialize the hardships so many are enduring right now: loss of loved ones, loss of jobs and income, hunger, hospitalization, quarantine, lack of social interaction, school schedules in flux, the increased reports of neglect and abuse in adverse home circumstances, and on and on. So much chaos – so much darkness.
YET there are also instances of hope and things to be grateful for even in the midst of these troubles. But what things? And where are they to be found?
If I were to freeze-frame the current times and take a mental walkabout, do you know what I would see?
First, the obvious causes for my gratitude:
- Medical professionals and first responders. I can’t imagine the incredible stress they are enduring and am humbled by their compassion as they ‘triple-hat’ at times by serving not only as medical personnel, but also as social workers, grief counselors, and lay pastors when COVID-19 blocks the way of the professionals who would otherwise be filling those roles.
- Brick and mortar store employees and the delivery personnel who work tirelessly to keep us from going without the essentials; unfortunately they so often go unnoticed and unthanked.
- Sanitation and utilities employees – also unnoticed and unthanked unless something goes awry.
- Teachers who have worked such incredibly long hours over the past months trying to keep children and parents engaged in education beyond the classroom. Like the medical professionals, teachers also are triple hatted – finding ways to instruct children with special needs, to feed those who otherwise would go hungry, and connect with those who have challenging home lives.
- Parents who are trying to manage so many challenges (careers, school work, financial struggles and uncertain job futures) without impacting their children’s sense of security.
- Researchers who are working around the clock to find a vaccine so that we have hope of life beyond chaos.
There are other causes for gratitude which are less obvious – causes I would miss without the walkabout:
- Construction workers who are maximizing this unplanned hiatus from 24/7 rush hour in order to improve our post-COVID commutes.
- Pastors, musicians, and support staff who are working incredibly hard to keep their congregations and communities cared for physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Neighbors who check on each other to make sure all is well: that groceries are bought, lawns mowed, rides to appointments (under cover of masks) given, listening ears made available to the lonely.
This is just some of what I see in my walkabout. But what I see gives me hope as I see the best of humanity rising up in the worst of times in ordered, compassionate, sacrificial love that has always been here, but has often gone unnoticed. The Spirit of God flows through each of these individuals whether they know it or not! So I rejoice!
Then, as my freeze-frame walkabout ends, I hear more of Paul’s words to the Philippians: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).
Thinking on these things rekindles our hope: this present trouble isn’t all there is!
So….who do you see in your freeze-frame walkabout that fills you with gratitude? What do you see that brings you to a place of hope-filled rejoicing? The causes for gratitude and hope are there – just pause and walk about!
And to God be the glory! AMEN!