I’m driving to my in-laws’ farm. It’s after supper and the gravel roads are empty, just like the churches, just like the schools, just like the stores in nearly every town, every city, every region and every continent. It’s Spring of 2020 and COVID-19 has taken over in what World Health Organization has called a pandemic, and for once it would seem we are completely unified – fighting the same invisible virus.
And we’ve been encouraged to sing the doxology – twice – every time we wash our hands and it would seem a kind of cleansing is happening. Even as we scrub hard to wash away the germs, we sing praises to God. Chasing away the even greater invisible enemy.
Every home is full, now, of families huddled together – of mothers forced into homeschooling, of fathers forced out of work, of children forced out of community with one another, and yet – we’re clinging. To each other. While sobbing in the bathroom when no one is looking, or on the kitchen floor, because our worlds have crumbled in just a month and all because of something we cannot even see.
I’m crying again now, as I turn into my in-laws’ driveway to go for a ski, because I’ve just realized we have to cancel piano lessons. It was the final thing. And it’s a very small thing but for some reason it seems it was holding me together. The idea that my kids could still go to piano lessons.
Below the surface
Yet as I strap on my skis and glide across the snow, the sun setting across fields stretched pink and purple, everything calm, and the same as it was yesterday, I breathe deep air that is still the Lord’s, in a world that he still reigns. And though I don’t know what tomorrow brings, or next week, or next month – I know who holds my life in his hands. And I hear the Spirit whisper, “incubation.”
Incubation is why governments are recommending two-week quarantines – that latent period of 14 days in which exposure to the pathogen, the coronavirus, will manifest itself through symptoms in the host.
Yet incubation can also mean a very hopeful period of development in the dark, before the act of giving birth.
Every spring, we get 50 chicks, which we raise for meat. Right now, the chicks are being incubated somewhere in Canada. A mother hen is sitting on her eggs, keeping them warm, brooding, as embryos form within the shells of the eggs. It’s the body heat from the hen that provides the constant temperature needed to form life within.
God whispers “incubation,” and I think about whether something good will form in the darkness under the pressure of these current circumstances. Even as the weight of the unknown presses down upon us, and we are held up in our homes, like embryos within the shells of our lives, God is stirring. He is forming new life within his people.
Every Easter, the church remembers the darkness of a tomb that held our Saviour. At the time, when he died on the cross, it seemed hopeless. The cross was a symbol of shame and humiliation. The invisible enemy of our souls seemed to have won.
But how quickly that cross became a symbol of victory.
And even as the sky above me dims, and I head home across the shifting shadows of night, I know morning will come. The shell of the egg will crack, the stone of the tomb will be rolled away, and out of this darkness, I pray, the glorious light of a church refined, washed, cleansed and reborn will emerge.