Well, the coronavirus has certainly been healthy for my blog. Silver linings I guess!
When I was little, I absolutely loved the song “I know who holds tomorrow.” Still do, in fact, but there was something magical about it when I was a wee lass. I think my mum used to sing it to me. The first verse says,
I don't know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'er the future, for I know what Jesus said
And today I'll walk beside him, for he knows what is ahead.
This time is definitely teaching me not to “borrow sunshine.” A friend I met recently struck me a bit because he always says things like, “See you next week, God willing.” I’ve never known anyone who actually took the advice in James 4 so much to heart, and I found it a bit intriguing.
James 4: 13 – 15 (ESV)
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Now, I’m learning to live a little more James 4. We really have no idea what tomorrow is going to bring, do we? Two months ago I laughed at my Chinese friends whenever they brought up the coronavirus, just a whisper of a rumor over on the other side of the world, surely destined to follow in the underwhelming footsteps of H1N1 and SARS. Two weeks ago was still business as usual. I was hoping that people would stop panicking so we could go back to real life. Two days ago we could still visit friends and keep appointments, though it may earn us a disapproving frown here and there. Today we’re not allowed outside except for very specific reasons. I can’t go into the lab to get equipment I’ll need for my dissertation. My roommate’s visiting brother will be staying with us for an unexpectedly long time, it seems. We had our first online home group meeting. It was good to see everyone’s faces and hear their voices, but the peanut gallery was eerily quiet because we had to mute ourselves to prevent too much feedback. Fourteen yesterdays ago someone in a group chat messaged that we’d all be living in a disaster movie within a couple of weeks. I didn’t believe him.
It just goes to show you, tomorrow is a fickle thing. It’s so tempting to become comfortable with the thought of our tomorrows. I was, until very recently, looking forward to celebrating my 30th birthday in England. I was going to take a day trip to Bath with friends. I was planning on attending dances and concerts and going on a trip to Hungary with a friend. There was a lot to look forward to. Learning not to borrow tomorrow’s trouble is intuitive enough, but it’s difficult to avoid borrowing its sunshine. We make our plans and contentedly contemplate them, so certain. I think this virus is a wake-up call for the world, a reminder that, although we have created quite a convincing illusion that we’re in control, “the masters of our own destiny,” there’s a lot that’s out of our hands.
Now I’m learning to hold my plans with an open hand. If I’m ferociously holding tomorrow, it’s more painful when it’s wrenched away. If I hold it lightly, I can let it go without so much of a struggle. Today is what we’re assured of. I don’t mean this in a fatalistic doom and gloom way, nor in a reckless YOLO way, but in a “be thankful for today’s sunshine” way. Today was glorious here in England. A perfect, sunny day. I couldn’t go out and frolic in it, but I did get to have my prayer time in the back garden – an answer to prayer since I’ve been telling God lately how much I miss our YWAM walks together. And I did get to open my window to the birds and the neighborhood noises and the fresh air while I worked. It was bliss. I got to meet with my home group and talk to old friends. I’m in closer contact with my family and many of my friends now than I have been for a long time. There’s much to be thankful for, even today. Thank God for the humor of the world and for the extra time I have on my hands to rest. (And also to figure out how to write a web server, hopefully…)
And it’s always comforting to know that though tomorrow may slip through my fingers, it is in God’s hands. The same God who brought his children out of Egypt in a day, after 400 years of slavery. The same God that transformed the world in a moment, when He raised Jesus from the dead. Those times were looking pretty dire as well. Someone said, recently (I wish I could remember who!) that we must not let unbelievably bad things happening make us lose hope that something unbelievably good can also happen. In the middle of the disciples’ absolute despair, Jesus came back from the dead. A more surprising tomorrow, I think, than even a world locked down due to coronavirus. Let’s remember, as we hold our tomorrows lightly, that the plot twists can go both ways. We’ve very suddenly found ourselves in an incomprehensibly bad situation for the moment, but God is fully able to produce just as incomprehensible a good one. But never mind the forecast, whatever tomorrow’s weather may be, we can always enjoy today’s sunshine.