Going on four weeks ago I ended up in the Cambridge ER with a broken wrist. Over the course of the next 2 1/2 weeks I was back in that hospital three more times for surgery and other appointments. Each time I’d check in I’d be asked the question—have you been out of the country? I knew why they were asking, but it was, at the time, mostly a formality. COVID-19 was in the news, but hadn’t yet hit close to home. I shake my head as I sit here, still one finger typing on an iPhone. How quickly this hit.
We were on vacation with our college sons and their girlfriends when the whirlwind of reality began to transpire. It started with emails from their various colleges. First the decision to delay the return of students following spring break, two to three weeks of online classes. Emails from church let me know we’d be doing much the same. Then, a couple of days later, more emails from schools, campuses closing for the rest of the semester. Texts from my mother-in-law, traveling from Arizona back to Minnesota, letting us know restaurants and businesses are shutting their doors in our own home state.
We discuss and consider our course of action. Do we stay at the beach or return to our homes? We pray for wisdom. Thank God for our relatively secluded Airbnb. Pray for the world, this crazy situation. Our guys are young adults, but not too old to need the security of good parenting and wise counsel. Life as they know it is upside-down and unknown.
My sense of responsibly kicks in hard. What is the RIGHT thing to do? I’d resisted this vacation from the beginning. Long before there was a hint of virus I had a half-dozen reasons we shouldn’t go. We have a house to build and we need to save money. I had commitments at church (pre-shut-down, March looked to be busy month.) The due-date of our newest grand-baby on the horizon (since arrived.) Grammy in Arizona, and someone would need to stay with Pop—and Maple, our dog. And then on top of everything else, the inconvenience of a broken wrist. Wouldn’t it be better for us to stay at home?
The thing is, HOME is a bit of an abstract concept for a family scattered in temporary housing. Where is home, exactly? Post vacation we return to a shared townhouse, ground-breaking scheduled in a couple of weeks. Or is it? (Likely not.) One college son will be the lone tenant in his rented house in a college town. Another will probably engage online classes from his uncle’s basement.
So. For better or worse. God gives us this. For a few short days we’re given the gift of home together on a beach in Florida. We circle family—two sons and two girlfriends—to talk about life and all this crazy, to trust and pray. We sit around a table on an outdoor deck, eating shrimp and redfish Kyle has prepared on a recently purchased charcoal grill. And we remember how Jesus multiplies loaves and fish. We talk about what it means to be generous people in a world set on self-preservation. We ask God to give us courage and to show us how to be His Love. One boy prays specifically for the Church—doors closed, but never more visible, more impactful, than such a time as this.
One son is quieter than the others, letting parents and girlfriends do the talking. His mom knows these are scary times, and hasn’t my boy seen more than enough hard already in his one short life? But this young man is David to Life’s Goliath. Tested and proved. And the truth is he’s got more courage than the rest of us put together and I think to myself, you can do this son.
We can do this, can’t we? We who fix our eyes on The One Who Never Fails. And we—His people—called out to love with courage and to deliver His peace.
It took nearly twenty-four hours for our straight-through drive back from vacation home to scattered dwellings across the Midwest. Six of us, somewhat somber, duly quiet, but not afraid. We’d been strengthened by each other and strengthened by prayer. Strengthened by God’s provision of time and food and Spirit. Ready. For whatever. We are His people, called and sent out. Or sent home. For such a time as this.