When I write a meditation, I always put the date beside it. This stands as a reminder of what was going on in my life and around me at the time of writing. “Built to Last” was written on the 28th of April 2020. In Ireland, we were a few weeks into our first national lockdown. What had begun mid-March as a two-week measure had been extended ,and restrictions had gotten stricter.
May 1st of the same year, the government published a color-coded road map out of the restrictions. I studied it; myself and my fellow optimists thought this would be the end of COVID-19. However, the leaves on the trees around me had not yet turned into their beautiful autumnal shades before another wave of restrictions was brought in, which remained in place until just before Christmas. As someone who loves the sea, I should have known that just because one wave has broken on the shore line, that doesn’t mean there aren’t more waves on the horizon. The reprieve for Christmas was short-lived, and we started 2021 in a lockdown that rumbled on and on, month after month.
With church services moving online, the rhythm of my Sunday mornings changed. I often found myself mixing bread, rubbing butter into flour for scones, or mashing bananas for banana bread while listening to a program on the radio where people read memoir pieces they had written. Many of the tales were about “ordinary” and “everyday” occurrences—things we had perhaps always just taken for granted. One man was telling a story from his travels as a student. As I listened, I thought of my own children who were of a similar age and shed a tear.
When my daughter brought her school books home in March 2020 preparing for her final state exams, little did she know it would be November 2021 before she would be back in a classroom or on a college campus. Her brother did half of his degree in his bedroom and during a summer internship. I think back to my own college days when I went overseas every summer to work—the fun, the people, and the adventures I had. My daughter went into college to the library during lockdown and texted me, “Met someone for lunch.” The accompanying photograph was of her companion, a seagull who had joined her on the empty college campus! They say a picture tells a thousand words.
I’m glad that when I penned my mediation, I didn’t know what lay ahead. While I wouldn’t have chosen to walk through some of what I have during the last few years, I think of James 1:2-3, which tells us to count it all joy whenever we face trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance. The following verses encourage us to let perseverance finish its work so we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. And I know that the Lord built some things on the inside of me over the last couple of years as I walked on unfamiliar paths and through different trials.
I was rereading a mediation I wrote in May 2021 after visiting the local shopping center and watching it reopen from its forced hibernation since the previous December. Some of the business remained shuttered and wouldn’t be reopening. Here is an extract from that meditation, which is called “We Made It.”
Each of us has a story to tell about the previous 14 months. If we were to write it, amidst the pages of fun, laughter, joy, togetherness, and provision, there would be pages that tell of sadness, loss, disappointment, hardship, stress, fear, sickness, loneliness, isolation, and worry. . . . Though the season had its challenges, throughout it all, woven into the very binding of my book, was a trust in the One who would see me through. And God had. Woven throughout were threads of hope, trust, and dependence on God, who promised in Isaiah 46:4 to carry me. And God had. I trusted in the One who promised to sustain me and did, who promised to rescue me and had.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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