Now what? It's a question we ask when we are feeling overwhelmed, devastated, or out of control. We ask it when we lose a job, an opportunity, or a loved one. With any loss comes a degree of emptiness. Arms and hands that were once full are left idle and empty. Securities we depended on disintegrate into dust. So we grieve that which we lost.
Without doubt, the events of the past year have taken a toll on all of us. We have all built opinions from the lenses our experiences have formed in front of us. We've felt angry, sad, frustrated, and in some ways helpless. We have after all lost control of many basic aspects of our lives: how we shop, where we dine, where we can travel, how and where we can worship, how we celebrate holidays, and even who we can invite into our own homes. In addition to that loss, we daily take in macro views of the terrors of the world from all different angles and degrees. If we are not careful, our focus on loss, coupled with the macro devastations, will push us further into chaos, fear, and confusion. And that my friends is a useless place to be.
And so I circle back to the question I started with: Now what? We have lost much...now what?
There is sickness all around us... now what?
Our economy may be irrevocably destroyed for this generation, we may never get our freedoms back... now what.
"Now what" carries a connotation of defeat. It compels us to throw up our hands and watch the world burn in hopeless defeat. It invokes a feeling of hopeless loss, while waiting with glazed eyes for the next wave to crash. But what if, by asking a different question we found a way back to faith, hope, and action?
Instead of asking "now what?", let's look around us and bravely ask "what now?"
As I have reflected on current events over the past months, I have begun to do two things:
1. realise that the world as I knew it is not likely going to suddenly go back to "normal" ,
and 2. choose to take a more micro look at the world around me. I cannot fight a virus, or a new world order (whichever happens to be driving this insanity).
What I can do is actively look for what opportunities are in front of me. People are desperately lonely... what (can we do) now? School is a roller coaster of open and closed... what (can we do) now? Church cannot open... what (can we do) now? Small business is suffering... what (can we do) now?
A month or so before Christmas, while many of us were grieving our loss of not getting to see loved ones, a friend of mine looked around and saw a great need in the elderly community. We were missing our connections, but those in care homes were completely alone. So she organized gifts for 22 seniors. It made such a difference to those seniors, that she was asked to arrange gifts for an additional group of 35 seniors. Because she chose to ask "what now?", 57 seniors received personalized gifts, letters, and treats from the community, and by extension felt cared for.
Months ago, as the weight of fear and anxiety grew, a dear friend voiced to me "I don't know what to do other than be happy and joyful in public". As the winter wears on, she is managing to stay connected to gym friends by cross country skiing with them. As they all deal with varying levels of depression, her simple mantra of being joyful is likely a lifeline to them.
During the Christmas season, many of us witnessed our local post offices overwhelmed with orders and packages. Many people directed their frustrations of late arrivals and lost items at the postage workers. One day, while picking up a package, I witnessed the postage workers receive a gift card and thanks. The gesture brought a pause to the workers who all smiled in thanks.
Many of you are aware of this, but when Springs Church was told they could not hold drive in services, they fought to stay open. Why? Because drive in church was (and continues to) bring hope and life to those struggling with loneliness and mental health during lock downs.
Many of us waited months for a haircut, and voiced real concern over the financial hit our small businesses were dealing with while forced to shut down. I went to get my wayyy overdue haircut this week (yay!). I chose to give an extra large tip. I encourage you all to do the same! Whatever service you are receiving, and if you are able - be generous!
I have witnessed a number of friends who saw the instability of covid-schooling, and turned that "what now" into bravely pulling their children and homeschooling for the first time. And they did it through lock-downs, and working! Others I have seen choose to keep their children in school in order to be a light to the other children.
I have also seen ministries and businesses make unpopular decisions for the sake of their people, their clients, and their purpose, only to find tremendous growth despite the events going on around them.
I deeply believe we all have a part to play in the midst of the times we find ourselves in.
I would like to leave you with a verse from John to reflect on. Jesus tells his disciples what to do when they feel distress and frustration, and it is not complaining, nor is it rolling over and giving up. Stand up friends, be kind; be brave.
John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]
From my lock-down (again) home to yours,
be blessed, choose joy, and stay sane!