Burdens to Blessings

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Matthew 25:14-18

The other day I was reflecting on the fact that so few people in our circle have had to do what my wife and I have had to do in the last year. She and I work full-time and have had three kids in school (two in elementary school and one in middle school). Our kids have, until recently, been 100% virtual for their schooling. So that means, on top of both of us working full-time, we’ve had to juggle being each of their at-home teacher/tutor for a year.

Add to this the fact that I am a pastor and have had to help lead my church through a pandemic while we’re in the middle of buying a church building and changing our leadership structure. Oh, and we bought a new house and moved last May, right in the middle of the pandemic. Not to mention that in the midst of all of that my brother died suddenly and tragically in a car accident.

Needless to say, it has been a lot. And as I scan my community for people who can relate, there aren’t many. Most families in my church have one parent not working or put their kids in private school. Most haven’t had three in virtual school all year. Most haven’t had to juggle grief and moving and two full-time jobs and leading an organization through the pandemic.

I was lamenting this reality. So I sent a text to a friend about it, one of the few friends who has a life that comes close to resembling mine. I texted him that so few can understand all that we have on our plates. So few have had to manage what we’ve had to manage in this last year. His response was perfect.

He texted back, “How did we get to be so fortunate?”

He didn’t mean this sarcastically. He really meant it. How did we get so fortunate to have so many kids? How did we get so fortunate to have two jobs? How did we get so fortunate to be entrusted to lead organizations? How did we get so fortunate to be able to afford a new house? How did we get so fortunate to be responsible for so much?

His response immediately shifted my perspective. What I was viewing as “a lot of weight to carry” his comment shifted to “a lot of responsibility that we are blessed with.”

My response to him was, “I guess God thought we could steward it.” And I really believe that to be true. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with 5 bags of gold didn’t complain that it was too much to handle. He went at once to be a good steward of what he was given. And this is what we must do.

Self-pity is from the enemy. Self-pity is a person swimming next to a drowning victim who is thrashing around and then complaining to the lifeguards that they are getting water in their eyes. Self-pity is one of the most disempowering lies that one can believe about themselves. Self-pity is the lie that you are a helpless victim of your circumstances and are powerless to do anything about it. Self-pity turns “blessings to steward” into “burdens to carry.”

What blessings are you viewing as a burden? Where has self-pity seeped into the cracks of your heart and mind? Be sure to pull that weed before it pulls you under.

End of the Pandemic

I had a dream last night that I was boarding a plane with my family and no one in the airport or boarding the plane had a mask on. It was such a weird feeling yet so freeing. I’m not claiming this dream was prophetic, but it was encouraging. In fact, you don’t need to be prophetic to see that this pandemic is coming to an end. Many news outlets aren’t talking about it yet because they don’t want to give people false hope. But if you look at the numbers, it is clear.

I want to encourage you today! The COVID numbers right now in my state (Maryland) are back to where they were at the beginning of June 2020. You remember June, right? We had been trapped inside all spring but in June all the COVID numbers started dropping. Things started opening back up. We all came out of our hibernation. Not only were the numbers good in June, but they kept getting better into July. That is where all the numbers are trending right now, and it’s only the end of February. That’s really good news!

The positivity rate in Maryland is now below 3.5% and trending downward. Vaccinations are up and continue to grow. Think of it this way, if the numbers in March 2021 look like June 2020, then we can assume April this year will match July of 2020. And if our numbers are that low in April, imagine how good May will be. Imagine how low these numbers will be as we start the summer!

Students in Baltimore County Schools are starting hybrid learning in March and April. They are reintroducing the kids in phases, some at the beginning of March, some at the end, and some at the beginning of April. Hybrid means that two days a week some students will be in schools learning in person. Just the psychological boost this will create for children and parents alike will be massive. Kids will be allowed to be kids again, at least in part.

All of this paints the same picture. The end of the pandemic is upon us. It may take a few months to fully arrive, but the beginning of the end is here. More and more people will continue to be vaccinated, especially our most vulnerable populations. COVID will be reduced to what we always wanted it to be, a common virus that we occasionally experience like the flu. This is cause for massive celebration! Be encouraged friend. Get your hopes up!

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:1-5