The party was already planned in my head. I had decided a taco bar would be the most economical way to feed all the guests, which would include our friends and my son’s, as well as both sets of out-of-town grandparents. I would keep the food inside, on the kitchen table covered with an orange tablecloth and other decorations. Everything else would be outside; tables and chairs scattered around the backyard and our cornhole game set out.
On my to-do list the week after Spring Break was to order the announcements that would include the party information. I had also planned to pick up Oklahoma State themed plates and napkins and to contact my friend who makes the most delightful decorated cookies. She would do some shaped like Pistol Pete, the school mascot, and others would say “Go Pokes” and “OSU” in orange and black.
All these arrangements for my son’s high school graduation were being made in March, well in advance of his May graduation date, because I also needed to think through the weekend before his big event. It was the weekend we were to be out of town for another special day—my daughter’s graduation from college.
I booked our hotel room last summer knowing how fast hotels fill up in her college town. I had already even made our dinner reservations for the night of her graduation. My husband, a pastor, had arranged months ago for our associate pastor to preach the two Sundays of our graduation weekends.
But now there is no need for our associate to preach. There will be no out of town trip. There will be no party. There will be no house guests. There will be no graduation ceremonies, at least not on May 9th or May 16th. How we will celebrate, I am not sure yet. It never entered my mind that it wouldn’t happen in the way I had planned.
Back in February, when I began reading the book of James, I may have skimmed over James 4:13-14 (ESV), “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” How perfectly timed.
As I consider my lack of control, not only am I very aware of my utter dependence on the Lord, but I am struck by how often we set our hope on things other than him. It sounds ridiculous to think of hope being set on my children’s graduations. But, when we can’t let go of feeling robbed of an experience it makes me wonder if it is because our lives are wrapped up in what’s fleeting.
By no means in saying this do I want to communicate that our disappointment, anger, or grief are not valid. They are understandable emotions that need to be fully experienced and expressed before God. But as we go before him, may we have the courage to ask him to help us honestly assess our hearts to see if the root of entitlement is underneath our shaking fists.
My son, he was robbed of his prom. My daughter, she deserved those final months with her friends. Both of them not getting their graduation ceremonies, it’s not fair!
Maybe for your child, it was her spring sport you feel cheated of. Or you didn’t get the birthday you deserved, and it was your fiftieth! For many of us, after a long, stressful winter we were looking forward to Spring Break trips only to have to cancel.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But if our hearts have grown bitter, could it be that our hope is bound up in a life played out how we imagine it to be? A life that is supposed to make us happy; one that gives back to us all that we put in? Have we succumbed to the lie that we deserve to live our best lives NOW?
The problem is this world can’t fully satisfy, because it is not the way it was supposed to be. It is broken, in need of renewal, just as we are. Therefore, in this life we will have trouble (John 16:33).
The disappointments, disruptions, distancing, disease, and death that is COVID-19 reminds us this is not our home. “But take heart,” John 16:33 goes on to say. Though the days and months ahead will not be what we planned and hoped for, we have something so much better. Bigger than COVID-19 and better than any fleeting event, we have the promise of so much more. “For the Lord has overcome the world!” (John 16:33)
He is our one true hope, for today and eternity. I can fixate on the backyard party and other things I was counting on that aren’t going to happen and feel cheated. Or, by the grace of God, cast my eyes onto the One who secured for me “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for me” (1 Peter 1:4).
GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT: A TEEN’S GUIDE TO LEARNING AND LIVING THE GOSPEL
What if the main character in our life story isn’t us, but it is the God who became like us and is now with us? What if being fully human means knowing him and growing to be like him? What if the way to be fully alive is to be caught up in Jesus’s story?
It makes me think of the scripture in Job, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Truly, it is true, even as Christians, we, rather I, am realizing how much I look to this world to provide satisfaction, comfort, joy in addition to the Lord. Yet He only, should be sufficient.