Hindsight is 2020

I won’t sugar coat it. This has been a tough week. It began with the painful realization that I should have been in Guatemala. Our annual immersion trip was scheduled for this very week, and it has been a difficult reality to face that the virus that has changed the face of our world took away the opportunity to go to a place that I find more peaceful than any other on Earth. I know that it doesn’t mean we can’t ever go, and I know that it is for the protection of the beautiful people we encounter there that we do not go right now. But all those things do not take away my heartache or longing to be there. Since we go around the same time each year, my Facebook has been haunting me with “memories” from years past filled with photos and videos of Guatemala.

In addition to this (or because of?) I have had strife with loved ones. I have cried more than I care to. I have been angry, disappointed, and hurt. I miss terribly my weekly hour of adoration in our tiny chapel at Sacred Heart….yet another thing that the virus has taken away. In the past, I have taken all of my worries and hurts (and joys and gratitude!) to Jesus in that sacred space and left feeling comfort. Now, I cannot go there, and try as I might to make new places for adoration, they do not have the same feeling. It’s like I keep trying to crawl up into God’s lap and let Him hold me, but as soon as I do, He gets up or disappears. Now, I know with my intellect and my faith that God NEVER disappears. He never ever leaves us. It’s us who leave Him. Which then spins me into guilt. I must be the one getting out of His lap of love, comfort, security, and reassurance.

A moment of clarity came to me when mowing earlier this week. Mowing is often my spiritual re-boot. I was listening to a Catholic podcast, and of course THE VIRUS came up in the conversation. They were speaking about how bizarre 2020 has been. It suddenly made me think of the phrase “Hindsight is 2020”. Hmmm, here we are, in the year 2020, and it has surely been one of the most unexpected years in most of our lives. Each of us has a story of how this year has affected and changed us. And it is not even half over! Whereas some things come in ripples and affect pockets of people, I would say that the COVID-19 crisis has widespread affect on the entire world. It is like one giant ocean-crashing wave. And we don’t yet have the hindsight. Our vision is far from perfect as to what to make of it all. It has had economic, spiritual, mental health, and physical health impact. It has drawn some families closer. It has torn others apart. It has created bad habits of binge watching and being stuck to a screen for work and pleasure. It has created good habits of taking walks outside, learning new skills, home cooked meals, creativity, and slowing down. But we do not have hindsight yet. 2020 is still fully upon us. Will that hindsight and understanding of why all of this occurred wait until 2021?

Saint Paul speaks such wisdom of hindsight being 2020 to the people of Corinth. He says:

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12

It isn’t just in the year 2020 that people want to know and understand now. Over two thousand years ago, the first Christians wanted to know. Paul was reminding them that in the moment, we rarely have clarity. We don’t know why this virus came, or what it can teach us. But I do know that God uses every single moment in our life for His good, if we lean into Him.

Personally, I still don’t understand why I had to have a tiny, masked wedding where I could not hug those who were able to be there and I could not stand immediately beside the women who have literally stood beside me through thick and thin, my bride tribe. We had to be socially distanced and masks conceal so much of someone’s expression. But, I do know that God was perfectly there and that I am incredibly blessed to have been married, despite the virus. It did not take away the sacrament from us.

I also do not know why I cannot take a most incredible team of young adults to a country where sickness and poverty are abundant, yet God’s love surpasses all that lacks. But, perhaps it’s a not now, but later scenario. I want to know when, I want to have a specific date to look forward to.   That is my human selfish want. I can wait. There is NO reason I cannot wait.

We long for 2020 vision right now, in this 2020 year. Yet even the most educated scientists cannot give us that. It is as if God is reminding the world, “Be patient. You cannot see distinctly. But I have perfect vision, and I see you. I see your trials, your disappointments, your hopes, your desires. You know partially, but I know fully. Wait my love. And know I am here right beside you in the waiting.”

Heavenly Father, please help me to wait. Help me to know that understanding will come, slowly, and later. I shall not want for later, but instead live in the day that I am given. I will love better, with your help and your Son’s amazing example. I will be grateful for today, instead of longing for a different tomorrow. I will recognize that there is a lesson to be learned, and a story to be shared. I will listen to You, and to those whom you put in my presence. Thank you for your patience with me.

Faith, Hope, and Charity…especially in pandemic pandemonium

Last week was Holy Week, and despite our current restraints of physical space, I desperately wanted to be present to Christ and draw nearer to Him in one of the most holy times of our Church year.  On the morning of Good Friday, my fiancé invited me to pray the rosary with him outside.  After all the virtual liturgies, I was thankful for an in-person prayer encounter.  As we began, before the first three Hail Mary’s, we prayed “for the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.”  I feel like those are words that tumble out of our mouths without much thought in our Christian journey. Faith and love are so overused that they fall on deaf ears.  However, for some reason, those words stunned me in that moment.    Instantly, my sweet seven-year old Goddaughter came to mind.  She attends Catholic school, and they have a virtue of the week that they study.  She often tells me about the virtue.  Her younger sister also likes to taunt her about her not displaying a particular virtue.  They are adorable!  I deeply contemplated what those virtues we were praying for meant.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that these three virtues are “theological virtues” (CCC 1813). “The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character.”  (CCC 1813)

To animate is to move or bring to life (according to the dictionary of Debbie). So, faith, hope, and charity make alive our moral activity…in other words, they help us make right choices. Would therefore a lack of these virtues cause wrong choices?

In our COVID-19 reality, we might not embrace our theological virtues so well. Day in and day out, we are quarantined inside our homes, and often grow tired of our mundane reality. Our virtues may not animate, but rather become stagnate. I deeply love my sons, but we are all tired of the “Groundhog Day” (sorry for the 90’s movie reference) saga…it’s the same thing every day, except for the multiplying laundry and dishes. We desperately need faith, hope, and charity now more than ever, but are they animating us?

FAITH – this is our belief in God Himself. In terms of a pandemic, it is also the belief that this will end, and that our God is bigger than COVID-19, even when the media tries to tell us otherwise. It is not falling into despair, or desolation, because that is turning away from Him. I can tell you that I myself have had moments of desolation throughout this. I have cried. I have felt huge doubt. I have fallen into fear. I have lost faith. Thankfully, my glass is half-full attitude wakes me up anew each day and reminds me to look up, start in prayer, and be thankful for one more day to try to follow God’s will. It is also important to not dismiss that others may lose faith and not bounce back so quickly. I need to have faith for them when they have lost theirs and remind them they are loved.

HOPE – to me hope is about our attitude – having a positive attitude and knowing that things will get better. However, the theological virtue of hope is Heaven focused. It is the desire for Heaven and “eternal life as our happiness” (CCC 1817). If I am to animate hope into my life during COVID-19, then I should be recognizing that Christ’s journey to Heaven was mixed with joy and persecution, disciples and mudslingers, and ultimately dragging a heavy cross. So, this journey we are all on that is filled with angst is also shaping us into the more perfect version of ourselves, readying us for eternal happiness with Him.

CHARITY – this word is difficult for me. Somehow, I have charity tied up with “pity” and I get a negative vibe when I hear it. I have a student who is from another country, and he talks about doing charity instead of going on a mission trip, and it always causes me pause. Yet the Catechism defines charity as the theological virtue by which we “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”  (CCC 1822) Well my student is right! When we go to Guatemala, it is for charity!  We love others for God and with God’s love in us. So during COVID-19, where is the charity?  It’s easy to point out where it is not. It is NOT in the people who are hoarding toilet paper, elastic, flour, etc. However, it IS in so many people in so many other ways. I have seen many groceries given away, many people singing or performing in lawns of nursing homes for the residents, many children drawing inspirational messages in chalk on sidewalks, many random acts of kindness.

When we pray for the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, those are BIG asks. They come with big responsibility. But if we trust God and know that He wants to fill us with these virtues so we can bring them to life in His world, then we know He will equip us to grow them in our daily lives. Tomorrow when I wake up, we will still be in quarantine. I will still be trying to figure out what is left in the freezer to cook for dinner, and what positive words I can give my teenagers to inspire them for another day being shut in. But with faith, hope, and charity animated in this very house, we will not just survive, but possibly thrive in pandemonium. I hope you take a moment to really consider these theological virtues, and how God is calling you to grow them in your own quarantined life.

He is our Shelter in Place

Life has been admittedly weird since Friday the 13th. On that day, the college students in my campus community were informed that their Spring Break may be extended because of the coronavirus. The President issued a social distancing order, and as we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I wondered if we were too close in our tiny chapel. Since that time, things have grown even more strange, with mandates of ten people or less in gatherings, and recently Shelter in Place orders being issued by cities and counties nearby.

All of it has struck me nearly silent. I do not know what to make of each day’s newsfeed, and I struggle with remaining the eternal optimist that I normally am blessed to be. All of our normal daily lives have been altered….across the entire world. I cannot wrap my brain around something that has altered life across the globe. I also feel I cannot complain, as everyone is affected by the lovely COVID-19 term. I am extremely blessed to have a job that I positively love. For the past 19 years, I look forward to going to work. The college students I minister to grow my heart and touch my soul. While some people may be happy to not have to report in to their office daily, I am absolutely missing my job greatly. The new landscape of trying to do ministry virtually is so hard. My favorite thing is ministry of presence. Despite what everyone tells me, presence is NOT virtual to me. Virtual reality does not satisfy the human soul.

I am also supposed to be getting married in a little over a month. The plans for a beautiful wedding, sacramentally celebrated with family and friends, have been hijacked. The reception postponed. The dreams I have been dreaming for the past year dramatically altered. Now my fiancé and I struggle to determine if we can include our parents in the 10 people or less rule, and I face the truth that my children will not be able to be there with me. Yes I know that what is most important is that God is with us, and I do not want to dishonor that fact. Still, I am allowed to grieve the loss of all who I thought would surround us on that special day.

Other consequences of COVID-19 around me: Forced homeschooling for high school. Online only learning for college. Mission trips rescheduled (yes our Guatemala trip). Senior proms, UIL competitions, even graduation ceremonies – ALL CANCELLED or postponed indefinitely.

Quarantine. Isolate. Social Distance. Desolate.

Yet, there is a silver lining. Probably multiple. As we hear terms like “Shelter in Place” I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, On Eagle’s Wings…”you who dwell in the shelter of the Lord.” The word shelter has taken on a very negative and fearful connotation in the past few weeks. However shelter is a positive term. To have shelter is to not be out in the elements. To be given shelter is to be cared for. God is always our Shelter in Place. Throughout my life, I have felt the shelter of God. It is almost like imagining myself crawling up into His lap and curling up in safety there. In these very traumatic times, God is opening His arms wide and inviting us to take shelter in Him. He is bigger than this pandemic. He wants us to lean into Him, and bring others along with us.

When I do choose to get on social media, I have noticed so many beautiful outcomes of this crisis….

  • Music artists writing inspiring new songs from their living room or kitchen and sharing it with the world (check out JJ Heller or Jeremy Camp, just to name a couple)
  • Celebrating Mass practically anywhere with anyone (my fiancé and I “attended” Mass at our home parish this morning, and then joined Bishop Robert Barron for Mass and finally Father Mike Schmitz)
  • Praying in Eucharistic Adoration with the Pope from my kitchen table
  • Zoom meetings with people I have never met (recently with campus ministers from across the country)
  • Google hangouts over lunch
  • So many sharing their performing art talents freely with the word

In addition, in my own family I have found that we:

    • Eat more meals together
    • Find time to have game nights often
    • Talk without the constraint of having to hurry to be somewhere
    • Bake, build, create, imagine

I hope to continue to be stretched during this time. I know God is using every bit of this mess to grow us, if we let Him. He does not waste one ounce of what we endure to teach and mold us. Please God, keep molding me.

“Our word describes reality. God’s word creates reality.”

Bishop Barron said these words in his homily today. Think of the words you use to describe your current reality. If you are like me, they are not complimentary or positive. Yet God’s word creates reality. What reality are we allowing Him to create? He is our Shelter in this place. We have 8 days left until the Easter Triduum. Lent has been sacrificial for us all, even if we didn’t choose the sacrifice. May we embrace our scratchy cross filled with slivers, and walk with faith towards our Resurrection.

Jesus, I trust in You.