It’s been over a month since I last posted, when I shared my poem “How the Virus Stole Easter.” I’ve hesitated to write anything since then, in part because I felt that something sacred was happening, and I didn’t want to mess it up!
It’s that sacred something that I want to share with you now. I’m sharing it not to exalt myself as a writer, but to let you get the glimpse that God has allowed me to have this past month of what He is doing across the world.
The rest of the morning, the poem flowed. I had begun with just the part about "maybe Easter, perhaps, doesn't come from a store," and then realized that I needed to tell the whole story of the virus, beginning "late in nineteen". I also realized that unlike the Grinch, who was both the villain and the one who changed to see the value of Christmas, I needed two characters in this poem - the virus and the world. The world - meaning those who don't know Christ or even those who oppose Him - is not our enemy. Rather, the world is our audience, watching our response to hardship, to see if the God we profess in the good times is indeed worthy of worship.
By lunchtime, the poem was complete, and I shared it with my family - with tears. I felt it was from my heart, and hopefully from the Lord, in a unique way, but I had no idea what a response I would get when I hit "publish" on my blog and then shared it on my "This Side of Heaven" Facebook page.
The first batch of comments and emails came the morning after Palm Sunday. As the week progressed, they began coming in like a flood, and the views and comments on Facebook were mounting as well. I found that others had copied and pasted the poem in their own Facebook timelines, and that some of those had been shared thousands of times. I got hundreds of requests via email, Facebook, and my blog asking for permission to use the poem in Easter services, on YouTube, and in many other ways. The impossibility of responding to those in a timely manner and the awareness that God was doing something amazing led me to give a blanket permission to any church or ministry wanting to use it, with only a request that they include the original URL and let me know how and where. (Bbut if you used and shared it and didn't do that, please don't worry about it! This is so clearly God's work!)
Only within the last two weeks has life slowed down enough for me to start responding to all of those messages, and to take note of what God has been doing. I share all of this with you not to praise myself (Proverbs 27:2) but to let you see, as I have, how God is moving among His people in this amazing time in human history. Here are some of the highlights.
- Currently, my original Facebook post stands at a reach of over 1 million and over 14,000 shares.
- Although most people who contacted me did not include their location, and there may be many churches who shared it without letting me know, I know of the poem being shared in at least 27 states and 14 countries outside the the US, among them Canada, Australia, England, Barbados, Singapore, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, North Congo, Philippines, South Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Sweden.
- It's been shared by at least 17 denominations (including Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, and many others), dozens of ministries, and by a daily "clean humor" email list.
- I was interviewed for the Together podcast, and also for an article on the Church Leaders website.
- It's been translated into Spanish and Swedish.
- One children's ministry leader at a Catholic church in the Southwest is planning to use it as a theme in their Vacation Bible School this summer to help the children in their community process their personal experience with the virus.
- Awakening America Alliance made it into a free downloadable video for pastors to use as they wish.
Beyond that, however, I've been most touched by the abundance of YouTube and Facebook videos that people have made of the poem, each giving their unique touch to it, and by the comments people have made on my blog and in personal messages. Many people have written that the poem spoke hope to them and brought them to tears, as this time has been so discouraging for so many. People have written that they wanted to share it with their children, their grandchildren, their retirement home, their school, and more. Pastors have shared that God had also impressed on them how the truth of Easter prevails, even if we can't worship corporately in person. Video renditions have ranged from cute to poignant, and those performing it from children to senior citizens, in accents from all over the world - all of them expressing a heartfelt desire that 2020 would, indeed, be a year not only of survival, but of revival.
It is this diversity in people and responses that has particularly captured my attention. God and His Word are unchanging, as is the offer of eternal life through faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection. However, God is not limited to one nation, or one language, or one denomination. Hearing from and seeing brothers and sisters in the Lord praising Him in so many diverse ways, longing to bring glory to His name in the midst of a truly unprecedented time in human history, brings me to my knees.
This is what I want you to see. As shocking as 2020 has been to the human race, nothing about it has surprised God. Never before has one event touched almost the entire world in the same way at the same time. Never before have so many residents of planet Earth shared such a common experience. And never before has technology allowed us to talk about it so easily and quickly, even while isolating ourselves from the virus and from each other.
The pastor of the church I attended as a child used to say, "God never wastes a hurt." I believe that fervently, and I experienced it personally as we lost baby after baby, beginning with our daughter Naomi, and saw God use that deep hurt to birth our Naomi's Circle pregnancy loss ministry.
With all this “never before”, don’t you think God is going to do something amazing in and through his church? I find myself being of two minds about the events in the daily headlines - on the one hand I am eager for the physical and economic suffering to end. On the other hand, I am eagerly watching and waiting to see what God is doing and and will do with this global moment, and praying for opportunities to join in His work.
Will you also pray? Will you ask God to show you how he can use you in your circle of influence in the days to come? Even in the midst of your personal suffering, whether from the virus itself, or the side effects of isolation or economic hardship, will you ask God to use you to bring glory to Him?
As the world begins to reopen, let’s not let the allure of the things we could not do for so long overshadow the lessons learned in lockdown or the incredible privilege of walking by faith and not by sight. Let’s look for ways to serve others, and to be the church on mission. Let’s watch for natural openings for spiritual conversations with neighbors. Let’s pray for revival to begin in our own homes and families, right now. Don’t be afraid you are not mature enough or good enough for God to use you! In Ephesians 1:6, Paul tells us that God uses us to display the glory of His grace to the world, and often His grace is best displayed in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I know that is usually the case in my own life.
I look forward to sharing more in these pages about what God is teaching me in the days to come (if you are not a regular subscriber, you can sign up here). I would love to hear from you about the same!
May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the Church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that -
Let it start a revival.
With all my heart,