A Letter to My Future Self

November 15, 2020
Masked people meeting with hands pressed against a window

COVID-19 has taken over every aspect of our lives as I write this in April 2020. This issue will be mailed in September 2020, and so I feel as if I am writing to my future self, to our future selves. This is a time of great unknowns. For the first time in my life, I cannot with any sense of accuracy predict what I might be doing this summer. Plans my husband and I had to attend our son’s university convocation, to visit friends in Vancouver, and to have a lovely 30th anniversary getaway at the end of August have been cancelled, postponed, or are still in question. This is your story as well as my story.

The viewpoint from April 2020 is one of long-term unknowns and ongoing physical isolation. I have no clue if schools and universities will be back in session, if gatherings of more than 12 will be allowed, or if life will show signs of normalcy by September. What I do know is that we will be a society, a global society, in grief. By September, there will a better sense of the loss that has occurred and the loss yet to come: loss of life, jobs, businesses, friendships, and more. So much that we had always counted on for security will have been lost or shifted. We will have much to grieve.

But what I also know is that human beings are resilient. If we allow our tears and grief to surface, if we make room to acknowledge what will never be the same, then we will adapt and bounce back in ways that we haven’t yet begun to imagine. God has given us this gift of resilience, built it right into our neurological system. If we cry the tears of futility, if we acknowledge the pain of our losses, then our brains shift into helping us discover the possibilities.

Humans are creative, resourceful, imaginative, and adaptive. We’ve witnessed that resilience over and over again, after natural disasters, tragedies, wars, and epidemics. We’ve lived it in our own lives when we’ve found a way to live, laugh, and love again after grief and devastation. It’s just that we’d rather not have to experience this, even knowing that gift of resilience lies within us.

So, God gave us the most amazing gift of all: Jesus! Emmanuel, God-with-us! God’s presence was palpable in Jesus. In Jesus, God entered into our suffering, pain, and loss. Jesus didn’t give the answer to why there is suffering; Jesus became the answer to suffering by being the unconditional love and healing comfort needed. In Jesus, God says to us, “I am with you; you are not alone.”

God’s answer to suffering is and always has been relationship! What I pray is that as we read this letter in early September, we’ve been attentive to deepening the relationships that are essential in our lives: our relationship with God through Jesus, our relationships with family and friends, and our relationships within the community of faith.
When everything else is stripped away, relationship is what is essential. In good relationships, we can rest from alarm and frustration, we can laugh in the midst of sorrow and pain, and we can find the hope and creativity that will guide us through. Good relationships require our attention and intention in order to build and strengthen them. They transcend physical distancing in this life and into the next. Jesus knew this when he said, “I no longer call you servants or disciples, I call you my friends” (John 15:15).

I pray that what comes out of this strange, chaotic, alarming, and devastating time is a strengthening of relationships as a priority in our lives. May the time we need to spend physically isolated bring us into a deeper relationship with God and into a deeper relationship with those most precious to us. May it also extend from there, so that we realize that the relationships among countries, faith groups, and cultures need to be nurtured and valued as well. Only my future self will be able to report the results.