The other day I went for a walk around my neighborhood. The temperature was up, the sun was shining, and the scent of spring was in the air. With all the closings and panic buying and social distancing that had been happening lately, I was ready for a little break for some exercise and personal reflection. As I began my brisk little trek through the streets of my town, I took time to vent a little to God about the insanity surrounding me, and then left my heart open to whatever my Maker wanted to teach me about my faith.
It turns out I was pleasantly surprised by a barrage of old-fashioned normalcy, a blitz of family bliss manifesting itself in the midst of an overwhelming global catastrophe. Throughout my 4 ½ mile journey I was treated to a heavy dose of perspective and found myself praising God for revealing himself in those beautiful moments that many of us have forgotten are still there.
When We Are Forced to Face Ourselves
As I made my way along my usual route I began to hear the sound of a bouncing ball. It was a father and his teenage children shooting some baskets in their driveway, laughing and talking about life. I suppose I should not have been surprised at such a scene. After all, it was a beautiful day, the kind of day just made for such activity. But then it hit me. This father was not at work and his kids had been home from school due to the closures. The forced social isolation had kept them confined in their home until this blessed and beautiful day pushed them outside where there was nothing left to do but enjoy the fun of each other’s company.
As I went further along, I saw men outside doing yardwork, teenage boys doing tricks with their skateboards, and women walking their dogs. It struck me that there were so many garage doors up and jackets open, letting in the fresh air. In a time where my hands smelled like sanitizer and my clothes like disinfectant, that it was good to see people letting in the outdoors. What was most enjoyable was that the appreciation for this spring weather was so apparent in the lives of those who had been left with nothing “better” to do and were so happily doing it.
A Step Back in Time or a Fresh Look at the Present?
The more I walked, the more people I encountered, and the more it was obvious just how grateful we all were for the blessing of being outside. We actually waved to one another, holding brief conversations and sharing our joy at being alive and able to engage in the simple pleasure of an outdoor stroll. The atmosphere was kinder somehow, as we made a connection to each other and to the grace of our common experience of the way life should be under God’s fatherly care.
At one point I met a Christian friend, out for a walk with his beautiful bride. They were laughing and enjoying being together. We stopped in front of a house where a man was happily washing his car, smiling at us as we joked about being set free in the midst of our mandatory lockdown. I remember saying that we were an Internet crash away from finding ourselves back in much simpler times. I was happy that our conversation was a positive Christian witness to this random, happy stranger.
What was most remarkable about this godly couple was that he had just lost his job and they were dealing with two daughters struggling with a chronic illness that was keeping them at home. But my brother and sister knew that they were under the care of a gracious God, their daughters were safe and sound and doing much better these days, and their romantic moment was too good to be spoiled by worries about unemployment or an uncertain future.
Those Were the Days; These Are the Days
One of my favorite sights was a young mom out in her front yard, raking up debris and watching her two young sons of about 4 and 2 playing in the sunshine. The older boy was attempting to make a few baskets while the younger boy had grabbed a plastic rake and was walking over to help his mother with her chore. It brought me back to the days when my kids were young and just as adorable as we spent time outdoors enjoying our home. But it also brought to mind just how faithful God has been in carrying my children all the way from infancy to young adulthood. As a father, I could not have asked for more beautiful children. Though we have had our share of struggles, they have been three of the greatest blessings in my life.
I walked on, feeling the sorrow of past parental regrets and selfish mistakes melting away from my body as if I were shedding heavy layers of winter clothing. Despite my nostalgia for those early days and the many sad times that came from my own sinfulness, these beautiful scenes were a poignant reminder of the forgiveness of God, the power of love to change the heart of stupid and stubborn men, and the goodness of grace to overcome all things and turn them to good.
Laughter in the Little Things
I am sure I looked like an absolute idiot grinning ear to ear as I passed the young jogger out for some exercise or the young mother chasing her little girl around her front yard, the family of five adults out for a walk with their dog or the lawn care workers happy to be about the business of beautifying the neighborhood one house at a time. It was normal life being lived out to the fullest. There was nothing unusual about the sights I was seeing except for the fact that the current crisis and the sudden sunny day had opened all our eyes to the glorious perspective that comes when we stop taking our lives for granted and experience a little gratitude for all that we have.
Without the busyness of work or the distractions and diversions of our daily routines, all of us were compelled to see the everyday forgotten pleasures of our lives with new eyes. How joyous it was to spend time just doing nothing – and in that nothingness, to discover a world of everything that really mattered. What a wonder to find that a walk in the sunshine, a quick family game of hoops, or some stolen moments with our children, could awaken in us the beauty of being alive.
A Reality within a Reality
As I returned home from my walk, I found my beautiful wife sitting at her desk finishing our taxes and planning her distance learning for the upcoming week for her students sent home from the school that had been closed by the Pandemic. My younger daughter was out with a friend, training for Lacrosse, getting ready for the day when she would return to school and spring sports. My son was busy working at his job from home, and my older daughter was away in Africa on her internship, preparing a 19-minute livestream prayer time for later that evening. Even in the midst of the harsh reality of the current crisis, our lives were moving along.
It was truly a lesson in love sent down from the heavenly realms that blessed me as I took my short walk in the sun. I wondered if perhaps these were all just normal occurrences going on around me and God had simply allowed me to see them with a new pair of eyes; but the reality within the reality I had experienced was too powerful to ignore. No, it was evident in the faces of all those I encountered on my journey that more was happening than just another “normal” day.
When we face troubled times, we are forced to take a look at what is truly important and beautiful. Though there are still tough times ahead and we know that life has sorrow as well as joy, it is the little essentials we can hold in our hearts that remind us that there is a God who is overseeing it all.
I pray that you will weather the storms of this crisis and come out on the other side closer to God and to the ones you love, and better for the experience. As you walk the path toward heaven, be sure to find some perspective and savor those little treasures God will stored up for us in heaven, where all that is truly good and worthy is found. May God bless and keep you, shine his face upon you, and give you peace!