Pay Attention

When I want to get my kids’ attention, I have to interrupt their daily programming. This usually includes the removal of something beloved – a toy, favorite treat, fun activity, television show, etc. I don’t take something they enjoy away just for kicks of course. I do it for their best interest – this is how we as human beings learn. We learn that our words and actions have weight through reinforcement and consequences. So I parent them. From a place of love, not punishment, I give and take away because I want them to grow into the best version of themselves, and because I can see what they cannot.

As this Coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, and now our nation, I cannot help but feel this strong impression that God, the most loving and perfect of all dads, is really working on getting our attention. What if in His limitless supremacy and omniscience, this is actually His mercy? What if out of the depths of His foresight, perfect justice, and immense love He is actually reaching out to stop us, redirect us, and equip us, through the interruption of our daily programming? What if His shaking up is actually His grace?

This year thus far has already brought some major, stop-us-in-our-tracks catastrophes: the Australian Bushfires, million of locusts swarming East Africa, increased political turmoil, and the Bryant family disaster to name a few. Coronavirus is now something that has spanned the globe, reminding us once again that the work, routines, and daily activities we rely on for comfort are actually not guaranteed. Our next breath isn’t guaranteed. Life can change in an instant.

What if these painful circumstances and realizations don’t just have to stir up anxiety, fear, and hysteria, but instead begin or deepen a profound, eternity-changing journey of faith? What if this is God saying, “I’m here. I’ve always been here. Now’s the time. Turn to me. Ask me the hard questions. Come to me with your doubts. Stop relying on these daily comforts that are fleeting. This isn’t my punishment, it’s my beckoning. This is what Jesus died for. I’ll never change. You can trust me. I love you.”

What if, when we’re really honest, we know we’ve heard those whispers before? Perhaps through a dark season of life, a chronic illness, the loss of a close loved one, or any time we’ve come to the end of ourselves, we’ve heard the gentle whispers, “This life isn’t the end. You’re not alone. I’ve got you. Don’t give up. There’s so much more than just what you can see. I’m here. I’m good. Look up.”

I’ll be honest…when news of Coronavirus first started to spread and panic ensued, I was the one laughing at all the memes. I still think the hysteria is unwarranted (because it never, ever helps) and that logic and wisdom should be used. We need to protect the populations most at risk, understand the limitations of our healthcare system, and be considerate of others until this thing simmers down. We shouldn’t be in a state of chaos or in a state of apathy. The truth is, precious people are losing their lives to a virus that few people have immunity to yet, and that isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Let’s be grateful that this virus isn’t more lethal. Let’s use this as a fire drill for whatever comes next in human history. Let’s learn how to face adversity together and not rely on mainstream media (who are really just competing for our viewership with lots of scare tactics) to control our emotions and responses. Let’s educate ourselves and meditate on how we’re going to react not just externally, but internally.

All this to say…a lot of us feel like we’re sitting in an adult-sized time out right now. Is this some sort of punishment? What did we do wrong? Our beloved possessions and patterns are being withheld, our daily programming interrupted. But I truly believe that there’s something much deeper going on. Press pause. Listen. When all of this fades away…what will be left? Where is your hope today? Because I can assure you that no person, place, or thing in this life is fail-proof. Only Jesus is. Even when I’ve thought God’s failed me, He has only shown me His goodness over and over again, and revealed to my heart that what I see as His punishment is actually His love, protection, and equipping.

So may we rise up in faith, peace, service, and grace this week as we face a new kind of testing in various areas of life. Reach for His outstretched hand.

Psalm 103:1-18 (MSG)

1-2 O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

6-18 God makes everything come out right;
    he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
    opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
    God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
    keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
    like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
    leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
    eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
    as they follow his Covenant ways
    and remember to do whatever he said.

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