My Friends, I can’t do it anymore.
I simply don’t have it in me to be optimistic about covid.
I’ve tried, like lots of you, for nearly two years. Early on, my optimism knew no bounds. It sounded like: “We can do this for three weeks. We GOT this.”
“We’ll be back to normal by the summer.”
“It’s hard to miss Thanksgiving, but think how great Christmas will be!”
Then we entered year two, and I kept trying!
“This is the last lockdown for SURE.” “I think we’ll really turn a corner in the fall.”
“We are definitely done with online school…”
For church, I held on to the optimism that our in person gatherings would resume easily, and all of us would gather again with heartfelt hugs and joyous relief. For my kids, I assured them that their favourite things would be back soon: birthday parties would return, friends would come for sleepovers, cohorts and quad-mesters would be a thing of the past.
I tried to stay optimistic that hard work and “hanging in there” would get us to the other side. Our church would stay connected if we just kept sending care packages and I phoned enough people in a week. Any tensions or hard feelings that people have felt with people they love would abate if we just hung in there until people could see each other in person. Businesses could recover if we showed a surge of support when they reopened.
You guys, I’ve tried optimism for a long time. I’ve tried getting through this by trusting that everything will end up a certain way – the way that I want. But I’m realizing that it’s time for me to stop leaning on optimism. I’m trading in my optimism for something far more reliable: Hope.
Hope is a little different than optimism. Optimism is the idea that everything will work out in the way that I want. Optimism is the belief that I can “think positive” my way out of real difficulties. I’m not saying optimism doesn’t have a place. I’m saying that in this pandemic – it ain’t working for me anymore.
I no longer feel able to simply think “things will change soon.” I’ve thought that a lot, and, while it may be the case, it may not. Restrictions may continue. Variants may surge. Covid is nothing if not defiant of my expectations of it.
And, after nearly two years of this, the truth is that things won’t ever be like they were pre-pandemic. There WILL be people who have not stayed connected to our church. My kids HAVE been deeply impacted by the chaos of the last 22 months. And many of the broken relationships coming out of this season won’t be smoothed over by an in person hug. I can’t throw a positive attitude at these realities anymore as a way to get me through. What I can do is HOPE.
I can HOPE (and I do) that God is still with us. I can HOPE that God will guide us when we seek to heal and rebuild our lives again. I can HOPE that out of times of suffering can come seasons of new birth. Blindly believing that everything will come back in the way I want is not what I need to do right now. I don’t need optimism. I need hope. For two years, my optimism has not panned out. But for 44 years, hope has never disappointed.
I can’t help but get real Jesus-y here and go to a Bible passage from the book of Romans that reads: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame…”
I still look forward to the other side of this pandemic, but I don’t know what it will look like. I know there will be a lot of healing to be done. I know there will be changes to process. I know we will not be the same people that we were in early March, 2020. And I hope.
I hope for what we will become and what we can still be. This hope will not put us to shame. It cannot be undone by a new covid announcement or another variant or a social media debate that goes off the rails. If you have also lost your covid optimism today, I pray that you will find covid HOPE.
Optimism has its place. But we will always need hope to fill in the gaps optimism leaves blank. May hope fill the spaces our optimism couldn’t cover.