Many weeks into the full experience of this pandemic I have, to my chagrin, come to accept a fact I’ve been fighting since DAY 1: God wants to work in me something new, something holy.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to me, a life-long Christian, but it is because I neither requested nor approved this work! Neither did God ask.
So, now, in the hopes of purging my soul and recognizing this COVID-19 season to be the severe mercy that it surely is, and in an effort to discover that perhaps I’m not the only one who’s been reluctant to offer God a sacrifice of praise during lock-down life, I would like to make my confession. Here I go…
I confess my incessant moodiness and irritability.
I confess that a subtle but pervasive anger lives in me, whose presence is as mysterious as it is destructive.
I confess that tears of sadness, despair, and doubt have come suddenly and frequently these past few weeks.
In summary, I confess that I have not prayerfully cultivated and thus do not currently possess, the physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional resources I need to be able to honor God and love my neighbor during this pandemic.
That feels better.
To be clear, I can’t honestly say I’m ready to cry out, “Thank you, Jesus!” for this mess of truth in my lap, but I’m beginning to inch toward that by asking questions like, “What is going on in me?” And “What is God doing in my heart, in my marriage, in my relationships with my kids, and in my work?” These questions are, in my experience, a kind of slippery slope of truth-telling. They lead, ultimately and because of the kindness of God, to repentance and to God’s forgiveness. This is my hope.
A few days ago, I heard a line from one of my favorite hymns that might as well serve as the soundtrack for my journey of repentance and faith during COVID-19. Check out the last line in this stanza:
That Easter day with joy was bright
The sun shone out in fairer light
For to their longing eyes restored,
the Apostles saw their risen Lord.
“For to their longing eyes restored, the Apostles saw their risen Lord.” This line comes from J.M Neale’s translation of the hymn, That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright. We sing it at my church on the Second Sunday of Easter-tide. It’s part of a larger poem that dates all the way back to the 4th or 5th Century, something I value because it means this a poem whose truth has managed to comfort many “longing eyes,” not just mine.
Eyes tell stories.
In the moments before Jesus’ resurrection appearance, what story did the longing eyes of the Apostles’ tell? Tragedy. Defeat. Confusion. Worry. Despair. “We saw Jesus perform miracles only to watch Him die on a cross?!”
Indeed, their eyes were telling a story we would all recognize right now, in the midst of this pandemic, in the longing eyes of people on respirators, struggling to breathe. It’s the same story told in the eyes of health-care workers, and in those of people without work, food, or shelter. I confess that, if you had seen my eyes recently, this is the story they too would have told you.
But the “longing” is only half of the story: “For to their longing eyes restored, the Apostles saw their risen Lord.”
I recorded a version of That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright and I invite you to consider it as a possibly traveling song for your own journey through the rest of COVID-19. May its message move you from longing eyes to a risen Christ.
Josh Bales | That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright | Album: Come Away From Rush & Hurry