On the other side of the screen, the “service” had just ended. The cameras and lights were turned off. The faithful few, who had come to serve and livestream the service, left with a quiet goodbye and a distanced wave.
In the still, dark and empty sanctuary, the events of the past weeks finally caught up with me. I looked out over the vacant rows of seats and felt a wave of grief. The color, action, and life that once danced around the sanctuary had been deployed. Like ghosts, I could see the faces of my church family. I could see their warm smiles, hands raised in praise, a caring hand on a shoulder. I could hear the echoes of music, prayer, and our youngest members calling out my name in hellos and giggles. Tears welled up in my eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I cried.
This is difficult. This is sad. This is loss.
Loss is a great magnifier. It highlights the many things we may have taken for granted. It leads us to discover the things most important to us. And it has a way of putting a value on invaluable things.
Without knowing it, I’ve taken for granted gathering with my church family. Attending services, the many Bible studies offered, and the extra events now seem like a dream luxury afforded only to those who live in fantasy, far off-places not affected by an invisible virus. I have taken for granted the way songs and praise fills a room, and how it turns into a life force that changes hearts. I miss the face-to-face conversations, seeing eyes filled with emotion, and having the honor of praying with someone in person. I miss hearing voices and the noises in the background of church life. I miss human touch- the handshakes, high fives, and hugs.
This is difficult. This is sad. But, could this be gain?
On the other side of this loss is joy. It has been an incredible thing to watch our church family rise up, bind together, and help & support each other. We’ve been creative in the ways to connect. We’ve started worshiping in a new way- livestreaming our service for the first time. We’ve started ending our day together with online prayer, word and worship. Encouragers are encouraging. Givers are giving. Servers are serving. Teachers are teaching. Gifts and talents are been utilized and used for God’s Kingdom. In many ways, we have been more intentional, more grateful, and feel more connected than ever before.
It is a strange thing to be joyful when you are grieving, but grief and joy can coexist. In fact, I think they complement and balance each other. Human feelings do not evaporate in times of trouble and uncertainty. But in the midst of our feelings and emotions, we can take hope in the fact that the Spirit will continue to empower us to move forward in unseen, unexplained strength.
Relying on our own power will only exhaust us, but relying on faith’s power will energize us. When we keep our eyes on the promises of God, this current situation is not the finality of reality. Our daily reality comes full of troubles and situations, but our eternal reality brings us joy and life. As a follower of Christ, we can be hopeful, future-focused, and embrace “for such a time as this” in both our joy and grief.
When this time passes, and it will pass, we will come out on the other side stronger. And what a perspective we will have. We will want to open our church doors wider, shout salvation, gather together more often, linger with each other longer. Our sanctuaries will be filled with color, life and action again. And praise, prayer and laughter will raise the roof.
Until then, we’ll keep being creative in connecting. We’ll keep showing up for our online services. We’ll keep loving those around us one step closer to Jesus. And we’ll continue to cling to hope and truth. Our future is secured by a sacrifice on a cross, and the Holy Spirit continues to help us and unite our hearts together, no matter which side of the screen we are on.