by Bronwyn Lea
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here ▸
“It feels like everything is either cancelled or on zoom,” I complained to a friend. “Everywhere I look, we’re trying to figure out if we can do the same things we always did, but just a reduced, online version, and if not— we’ve cancelled it altogether.” One by one, every activity that used to fill our calendar either got shut down or minimized to fit into a tiny, pixelated box on a screen; and I’m exhausted and angry about it. I want change, but not this change, and not this way.
“I just wish it could all go back to the way it was,” I found myself saying, which surprised me. I’m usually been the woman who wants things to move forward, not go back. I’ve been frustrated when I suggested something new at work or in ministry, and then was met with that wet blanket of a response: “no, we can’t do it this way because we’ve always done it that way.”
But now all those routines and rhythms that seemed so cast in stone - things that were so fixed there wasn’t space for any new ideas or any tweaks - have been quickly overturned.
For generations, church services were on Sunday mornings - same place, same time, same expectations. Now? Not anymore.
For decades, school happened in a classroom, with classmates of the same age studying the same stuff. But not anymore.
For most of my life, friendships were best cultivated in person: face to face, preferably with hugs. But not anymore.
For as far back as anyone can remember, people used to commute to work, in a place of work, working during things called “office hours”. But not anymore.
In the midst of all my grappling with all the change, a mentor shared a verse with me. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up! Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) The verse was so clearly a well-timed word from the Holy Spirit that tears instantly welled up in my eyes as my soul recognized what God was saying.
I had been fixated on the former things, saying “when we get back to normal….”
I had been dwelling on the past, trying to plan for work and ministry by taking our old calendar and trying to zoom-ify it.
I had completely failed to notice any new thing God was doing. I did not see it springing up. In the midst of the change, I did not perceive it.
The Holy Spirit invited me to take this Scripture, and look a little closer. What new things was God doing in our family? He was doing more than just cancelling stuff. He was creating space for something new. What new opportunities was God opening up in our church? He was doing more than just asking us to take things online as a poor and pale equivalent of in-person worship.
With a new set of questions, I began to notice little places where God was at work:
My children have been in Sunday School for so many years, it had been a while since we’d sat together on Sunday mornings listening to a message and chatting about it. Maybe God was doing a new thing in inviting me to step up my role in discipling my children? I began to see new conversations open up for God to work.
We’ve been trying to find pockets of time where women can meet for small groups, but calendars are crazy with commute times and evening homework and work schedules. But, if everyone was working from home— maybe we could try some new meeting times? Like maybe lunch over zoom? Or if seasonal sports were canceled for a couple months, maybe saturday mornings? I took a fresh look at my calendars to see where there might be new times for God to work.
We’ve wanted to connect with our neighbors, but with busy schedules and social politeness, it was often hard to do more than a superficial hello. But when we all found ourselves at home with public spaces closed or limited, God prompted us to offer our backyard pool to our neighbors as a place to bring their families to swim. I’d always been in the “come over for dinner” mindset, but God opened up a new invitation: “Come over to play.” He cued new opportunities for hospitality.
God comforted me in my distress, and then gently tapped me on the shoulder to remind me: he hasn’t stopped doing his God-thing in the world. He is moving history forward to its final fulfilment in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:10), and working all things—even pandemics and political stress—out according to his grace and power (Romans 8:28).
God has not pushed “pause” on his plans, nor will he “rewind” the world to where it was a year ago. It’s forward - always forward - with Him: He’s doing a new thing even in the midst of this hard thing, and I’m asking for the eyes of faith to be able to see it.
Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World. She is a stay-at-home (for the pandemic) pastor, editor for Propel Sophia, and speaker. Sign up for her monthly-ish newsletter here, and connect online on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.