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Wishing Life Away

Resist the temptation to see and speak of today as mere loss and burden

There’s a temptation to wish life away – to wish that pandemic days, months or even years would rush to oblivion. That from some bright future these mournful days would become as an Autumn mist burned away by the late morning sun. Forgotten, banished from memory.

Exhaustion of online world and conversation. Two dimensional images displace the play of light on faces and bodies. Loss of loving presence through touch and embrace and quiet nod. Digitized voices never quite capture the person we know and want to learn from. Click “leave meeting” and sit back to recover.

Far-off parents and grandparents reachable only by phone – a summer visit already distant in heart and mind. Thanksgiving, family dinner over Zoom? Forbidden 600 km journey to a meal of roast turkey and baked potatoes and the best stuffing ever and a welcoming embrace. Aching for a world other than the one received today.

Cough and scratchy throat lead to 10 seconds of clenched teeth and white knuckles as a swab is inserted further than you would imagine possible – turning, cotton head grates and burns. Eyes water. The uncomfortable test, though, only a prelude to 24, then 48, then 72 hours of waiting and wondering. Was I careless? Am I sick? Did I expose others? Is my family OK?

Negative result only means thinking about those not so lucky. The elderly confined in sub-standard care. Those who thought themselves strong suddenly reduced to fragile breathlessness. News of long-lasting, hidden effects of a disease so little understood. Second wave and more lives at risk.

Wishing these days away – 2020 resigned to the trash heap of history.

Look for love & beauty 

Resist the temptation to wish life away; resist the temptation to see and speak of today as mere loss and burden. As much as it grates and burns against our soul, we say: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Not a naïve refusal to take the grief of the world seriously or an inability to offer lament. An insistence, rather, that we pay attention to what we have, what we may give, what we may receive, who we may bless. Days of giving and receiving are days of gladness and joy.

See the beauty of the day, of leaves (faithful repetition) in myriad colours and hues – oranges, reds, yellows, browns. Community gardens as rich as ever with squash and carrots and beets. Skies heavy with rain or filled with wispy clouds or a vast stretch of blue. Days of beauty, for rejoicing. 

Listen to the lives of others, with new modes of attentiveness. Notice a neighbour not out and about as usual. Hear a tone of voice over the telephone suggesting fear and frustration. See the sleepless nights written on the face of a friend. Respond with encouragement and hope, a word to lift the weight of difficult days.

Receive the gifts of strangers. Lab workers giving overtime, again, to manage test results or the production of pharmaceutical treatments. Grocery clerks smiling and friendly behind plexiglass walls. Teachers uncertain but still in their classrooms. Delivery drivers . . . delivery drivers!!

Live with eyes peeled for Christ’s kingdom come near – always surprising, even if predictably surprising. Eyes peeled for expressions of love, representations of beauty, worship that enriches, prayers that deepens faith, conversations that bring understanding, and encounters that express compassion.

Resist the temptation to wish life away.

This is the day that the Lord has made.

Rejoice and be glad.

  • Roland De Vries is Director of Pastoral Studies at The Presbyterian College, Montreal, and a Lecturer in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University. He teaches in a variety of areas including Missional Theology, Reformed Tradition, and Global Christianity. He also has a keen interest in explorations at the point of intersection between church and culture. Roland and his wife Rebecca live in Montreal with their three children.

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