My earliest fishing memories take me back to the rivers of central Iowa. Granddad would take my sisters, cousins and me down to the muddy banks of the Skunk, Raccoon or Des Moines Rivers. After showing us how to bait a squirming night crawler on the hook, he would heave the line out into the river and then we would wait.
Do you remember how hard it was to wait for anything when you were six years old? But wait is what we would do . . . for the tug on the end of a fishing line. Our waiting, however, involved running off into the woods, throwing rocks and sticks into the river and playing hide and seek along the shore!
Today, our entire nation finds itself waiting. Waiting to see what life looks like the day after tomorrow. Waiting to see if something so tiny as a virus can really alter our plans for the future. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting to see if Washington can rise to the challenge of working together. Waiting see what our culture, habits and economy look like when the quarantine comes to an end.
Back on the riverbank I don’t remember Granddad getting frustrated by our antics. If he did, he never showed it. As you and I wait to discover our future on the other side of the Shut Down, we all have a choice—will we wait passively? Or, will we choose to wait with a sense of purpose, hope and expectation?
Will we paralyze ourselves with fear by fixating on the latest headlines (real or fake) or the deepening ideological divide that is eroding our faith in our fellow citizens? Or, will we choose to look at this season through eyes of hope? Will we live into the future with the anticipation of a new tomorrow? Will we wait with purpose?
We’ve all had activities, relationships, and for some jobs, stripped away. My daughter Kate was cast as one of the leads in the Sound of Music. She was supposed to be singing I am sixteen going on seventeen this week at her High School musical, the very week she turned seventeen. But not now. My daughter Chloe is waiting for a spring soccer season that may not be. My wife had just initiated a new work strategy in Indonesia, but like so much of our world, it is on hold.
The lakes and rivers of my childhood taught me patience early in life. Today, we find ourselves waiting on an unseen beast, the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us are experiencing the ramifications (near and far) of this new disease as exerts are beginning to understand it, and defeat it. The forced Time Out is teaching us new lessons. On the water, I learned how to wait with purpose. As I wait for the fish to strike, I adjust the lines, change lures, and monitor the Intel from my electronics as the boat hunts for the hot school of fish. Patience is not passive but active.
Today, it’s becoming apparent that many adults (myself included!) are struggling with waiting. It’s easy to focus on our expectations. From there one can escape into the online breeding ground of rumors, accusations, half-truths and hatred. All of which disguise themselves as truth. Easter weekend my children and I watched Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion and I was reminded of the words Jesus spoke to Pilot that have echoed across time, “What is truth?”
We are living in strange days, and so much of the future is beyond our control. But as we wait, are we making the most of the time God has given us? Will you focus on what you’ve lost, or what you would rather be doing right now? Or, will you choose to wait patiently, accepting that our nation is at war, together, with a virus, and while we don’t make the rules and can’t predict the outcome, you can choose how to make the most of each day that has been given to you.
Are we setting aside our digital compulsion and spending time with our children or spouse? Are we taking care of our minds and bodies through exercise, diet, reading, or connecting with distant friends? Are we turning nightly meals with our children into a cooking class or just a time of enjoying food and family and celebrating the gift of presence? Are we examining our possessions and homes and making adjustments and repairs where needed?
Today, as we navigate these very strange times, we are all waiting together. Will we throw sticks and stones at those who think differently than ourselves? Will we hide from the treasures God has placed right before us? Or, will we use the time to examine our lives, and the relationships that define our world? Will we re-calibrate our heart and sharpen our focus as we make the most of these strange days.
Today can be a funeral for what you think is missing, or you can embrace this moment, with all it’s uncertainty and pain, and create tomorrow’s stories.