by Hannele Ottschofski | 30 July 2020 |
Life is at a halt. We are heeding the lockdown regulations, staying at home and social distancing. All the plans we had for traveling are cancelled. After months, we are still waiting for life to resume—with no real expectation when it will. We check the infection rates and the death toll daily, hoping that the number of new cases will drop significantly as a sign that we are winning the battle against the unseen fiend.
It is like taking a train through a long tunnel under the mountain peaks, hoping that when the train comes out on the other side everything will be just fine. The problem is, waiting for the train to see light again is taking much longer than we expected. In the meantime we live in limbo, waiting for a miracle to dispel the nightmare that so many people are currently experiencing.
As an active person I hate waiting, especially if I don’t have a project to help while away the time. But waiting for a pandemic to pass is quite another dimension of waiting, because it will probably take much longer than we ever expected for us to return to something resembling normality.
It seems so strange to just have to wait—maybe a whole year—as if we had never entered the Year of Our Lord 2020. I would like to cancel this whole year, from beginning to end, so that I didn’t have to live in this uncertainty, and just start over again in 2021. Usually when we wait, we know what we are waiting for: the arrival of a loved one, or an appointment, or something that we can at least calculate in some way. Now we are waiting for the end to something that is so incalculable and unknown that we are overwhelmed. It is all so abstract.
It is easier to wait for something we can touch. Something concrete. We need physical contact, and only now have I realized how important this is for mental well-being. We are glad to see our children and grandchildren via Skype, but that is not the same as hugging them and enjoying close contact. With every day that passes I miss them more and more.
What Adventists Wait For
As Adventists we have been waiting for a long time for something the Bible describes in great detail: the glorious Advent or our Lord as King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s described in language we try to understand, and yet we don’t really know what it will be like. Our minds have been influenced by Harry Anderson’s paintings. But will it really be like that? We know the glory of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”—but what will the heavenly multitude really sound like? What will heaven be like?
In Bavaria, some people still imagine heaven as a little cloud on which a sweet little cherub with bare feet, dressed in a white nightgown, plays the harp all day long. But who wants to sit on a cloud all day? Heaven is not something many people are looking forward to. After all, life on that little cloud is almost like waiting for something to happen—and nothing ever does. And then only harp music—wouldn’t that be tiresome?
My Savior’s Face
There are melodies that give us courage while we are waiting. “Get on board, little children, get on board.” Don’t stay at the station, looking at the lights of the caboose. But how long will we have to wait for our train to get through the dark tunnel of this world’s problems? It really doesn’t matter, as long as we are on board this train on our way to our heavenly home.
Another song I loved to sing is “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace, I want to see my Saviour’s face. Heaven is a wonderful place. I want to go there.” Heaven may be a wonderful place, and I am sure it is not just that little cloud with the cherub. But the best thing about Heaven is that Jesus will be there. I can look forward to touching and feeling Him, being hugged in His great embrace.
I’ve met old folks in nursing homes who are just waiting for time to run out. They live from meal to meal, morning to evening, and then through a painfully long night. Fortunately, some are waiting to see their Saviour’s face in that wonderful place God has reserved for His children. It doesn’t mean that their days and nights are any shorter, but they have something to look forward to that gives a meaning to each day.
So, how do we cope with this pandemic that has turned our lives upside down? Is there something that gives meaning to our days? What do we have to look forward to? Can we make plans for the time when the virus has been eradicated, however long it may take?
Let’s not be discouraged, but as the apostle Paul said, “I will return to you if God wills” (Acts 18:21 NIV). We will enjoy life and family and friends again, if God wills, so don’t give up! As long as we take God’s will into consideration we should look forward to the future and make plans. And although we might have to scrap those plans, as long as we wait patiently for the Lord and with the Lord, this difficult time will pass.
And in the long run, waiting to see our Saviour’s face and feel His arms around us is well worth waiting for.
Hannele Ottschofski writes from Hechingen, Germany