Recently, I’ve had several conversations with friends who I hadn’t heard from in quite some time. As you would expect, there were all sorts of stories to share. Some started us laughing, some quieted us after a deep sigh. Some stories were filled with such heartbreak that we spent time crying together. In each case, despite the varied emotions evoked, there was one common thread. As the stories were relayed, there was a point in each story when words like these arose:
“And then, everything shut down.”
“And then, COVID-19 showed up.”
“And then, I stopped going, stopped doing…”
“And then, and then, and then.”
COVID-19 has deeply impacted our life stories. We have a whole new turning point in our lives, a new marker. A new before and after.
It has been almost eight months since we Michiganders were first ordered to stay home. In March that meant my whole family under one roof, all day, for months on end. A time like none other.
Across the nation and our world, friends and family members experienced abrupt change to their lives due to COVID-19. We all have a story from before, and a new story we are living into now, after. And by after, I certainly don’t mean after COVID-19 is over and done. Michigan’s stay-at-home orders were lifted in early June, with on-going limits to many, many areas of public life. Now, as we tell our story, we do so in reference to a time before we knew COVID-19 existed and a time now, when we have a different, changed story.
It is nothing but normal for stories to have a shift like this. That is why stories are worth telling. Without a dramatic shift, we have little to offer beyond a somewhat meaningless list of events. Stories get good when somebody says, “But, then…,” or, “You won’t believe what happened next!” We love the question, “Guess what?!?” because we know it means something has shifted. As the listener, we don’t know if something good, bad, ugly or sad, exciting or wonderful has happened, but we certainly want to find out.
The rather unique thing is that we’ve (all of us) just experienced a major shift. We all have a new tale to spin with the same jumping off point.
The good news is that, if we’re telling our stories now — and I really do keep hearing them — we have come through to another side. The shift has resolved into something else.
COVID-19 made us shift.
We stay at home,
suffer a shock,
suffer a sickness,
suffer in isolation,
suffer a loss, or many losses. Too many losses.
And we miss out on something important.
Something hoped for, dreamed of, paid for, chased after.
We have eaten too much,
or drank too much.
We have made hard decisions that don’t have clear, easy answers.
We have missed people. So many people, for so many reasons.
And, the missed opportunities.
The parties, and trips, and funerals, and graduations.
COVID-19 made us stock-pile,
Then we canned. We preserved for another season.
We gave new kinds of gifts.
Like meals left on porches, or
grocery drop-offs for the elderly, the sick, the mighty afraid.
There were kid’s violin concerts on neighborhood streets,
and meetings among friends, all six feet apart.
COVID-19 has made us creative-
finding ways to be generous, faithful, and kind.
We pray in new ways,
perhaps pleading more, weeping more.
We have worshipped from afar.
We have been deeply reminded of our maker’s design:
COVID-19 prompted shifts in our stories,
But, why say all of this? Because, we know like we know, there is nothing new under the sun. Even in storytelling. Stories ring true because they are familiar to us. And, thank God, the best thing that comes out of a story is the regular reminder of God’s redemptive nature. My story isn’t new. But, God is making all things new.
Telling the story of what COVID-19 has changed or shifted in your life, allowing your story to include the words, “and then,” means that your story continues on. That is redemption. That is good news.
Additionally, if we’re telling a story, that means we’ve got someone to listen. I would imagine, in the case of COVID-19 stories, our audience is very likely to understand the shift that has taken place, the way our world was rocked, changed or challenged. And, I would imagine that they are eager to hear just how your particular story has continued.
We are on this journey together, by lot, by necessity, and by God’s grace. Let’s tell our stories as honestly as we can, with as much hope as we can muster, and let’s listen to one another well.