I wrote a letter to my pre-pandemic “March 1st Self” . I think there is something beautiful and healing about processing pain along with acknowledging all the God has done…and remembering him. I’d love to share a snapshot of my journey with you in hopes that you’ll feel inspired to reflect and remember God, too. I encourage you, if you’re up for it, to grab a pen and paper and try writing one to yourself. What comes up may surprise you.
I just want to begin by saying that the Lord is pleased with you…not based on what you do or don’t do, but simply because you are his daughter. There is nothing you can do to earn his love, or make him love you more or prevent him from loving you less…that’s just not how it works. You are his…you are safe in his love. He will never fail you. And I know that you have this head knowledge, but the next two years will help you grow in this understanding. And that is exciting.
The season that you are about to enter into in a matter of days will rock you a bit. But don’t fret! God will give you everything you need for what’s to come, I promise you. Just like how God promises you that he will never leave you nor forsake you all throughout the Bible.
March 11 will be a big day…it will come quickly and it will bring you to your knees. Not only will it be the day that a world-wide pandemic will be declared, but it will be the day that begins a journey that will stretch you, tire you, pain you, push you, grow you, and delight you. There will be both joy and suffering…in ways that are impossible for your heart to foresee right now. And everything still feels surreal for me today. It’s not over yet.
While you will be wary of the virus, your heart will be even more pained to see other people in pain. The news reports will showcase death and mental health crises, and you will feel powerless. It will also feel painful to say goodbye to important plans and things that bring you to life, like hugs, coffee dates, church services, weddings, summer camp, young adult retreats, and dance parties. The government will have a very large say in a lot of things dear to your heart…and you will have to discern often how to proceed and respond.
The cancelled plans, both big and small, along with news stories and propaganda, will cause some sudden grief in you. Your way of interacting with your friends and with the public will change, which will cause some distress. Screen-time usage will dramatically increase, because school and work will go online, which will require lots of energy and cause fatigue. You like routine and consistency, and this shift will feel disappointing. Church will also go online, and it won’t feel the same.
Sharaya, life is going to take a massive turn, and it will feel confusing and overwhelming. But take heart. You are going to grow a whole lot.
I am writing to you almost two whole years into the pandemic. And while it isn’t over yet, life is so rich. Why? Because I recognize that a life full of richness doesn’t equate to a life full of good circumstances, but rather to a life lived for God and with God.
Look at your tattoo on your forearm. It says “the Lord is my Strength and my Song” (found in Exodus 15:2, Psalm 118:14, Isaiah 12:2). One day soon it will click in your heart that this is true…
You know how the bible is sitting on your bookshelf right now? Soon it won’t collect dust. Soon it will lay open on your dresser in the middle of your room because you will begin to not only recognize the importance of studying it consistently, but you will actually choose to do so. And this is going to be the best thing about the pandemic. You are going to learn that you cannot love what you do not know...or rather Who you do not know. This will be a humbling realization, and one that will propel you to look again at your priorities.
And you will begin to truly thirst for Truth…because soon opinions and different “truths” will be flying at you left, right, and center. You will experience countless moments of confusion and frustration because making decisions will be hard. Division between people groups will creep in fast – especially in Christian communities. The discord will feel too much to bear sometimes. Finding safety in peace and harmony won’t always be feasible. So you will need to turn your attention to God and find safety and rest in him… every day.
In January 2021 the Lord is going to place the word Alignment on your heart. You are going to ask him what living in alignment with his heart looks like, and he’s going to tell you that it first starts with spending time with him, as you would a friend. A few days later your close friend will invite you to start a 1 year bible reading plan, and at the end of each reading you will be encouraged to think of your “God shot” – 1 thing you learned about God’s character. By doing this consistently you will find delight in reading the bible. Holy Spirit will give you clarity on things you didn’t have clarity on before, and you will begin truly desiring to spend time with your Creator. You will begin treasuring God amidst the chaos because you will fill your mind and heart with good things. You will learn what it looks like to care for the garden of your heart. Your heart will soften toward him and your trust in him will begin to mature.
Next thing is, you will become acquainted with grief. So much so, that it will be difficult to become numb to, like usual. There will come a point where you will realize how important it is to grieve and that Jesus is the best person to do it with…because he too is deeply acquainted with it. You will remember that everything Jesus did was so that he could be with you. You will see value and beauty in processing aloud with him, crying with him, and surrendering your heaviness at his feet. Sometimes you will light a candle in a dark room… it will remind you that the Light has come and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Next, your friendships will deepen. Phone calls and Zoom meetings will become normal, and something you look forward to. The theme of most of your conversations will be about what God is doing in the world and in your lives, and you will be refreshed often. Your family will also become your best friends. You think they are now, but just wait. After months and months of quality time, conflict, and shenanigans, you will grow closer to them. Some days will be chaotic, but you will learn to appreciate and treasure it all. Also, they are the only ones you will be able to hug for awhile, so that will be a plus.
Another thing: you will get to know yourself better…and quickly. After all of the physical and emotional and spiritual turbulence, you will have lots to reflect on and process. You will also take advantage of your extra time by listening to podcasts, reading a few books, exercising, memorizing scripture, joining a devotional zoom group, volunteering on a crisis line, participating in online conferences, giving speeches online, writing prayers, taking photos, walking in forests, and drinking more water. Sometimes you will do social media fasts, too.
There will also be lots to celebrate. Several of your close friends will get married and engaged, and some will even have babies! Mom will become a student therapist, and you will also begin your Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. Graduating from university may not look like what you hope for now, but I promise that you will be celebrated well, and that you will love your cake! Holidays will be low key, but restful, and you will take more time to reflect on the reasons for them. School and work and church will be mostly online, but sometimes in person; there will be an ebb and flow. When everything is in person again, you will feel deep gratitude. And when they are online, you will feel grateful for the power of technology, and that you still are able to connect and build relationships. In fact, you will meet people from all over the world because you will join zoom groups and conferences that will allow you to network in ways that you wouldn’t have thought of before! And soon you won’t be able to imagine your life without these new friends. Your weekly Costco trips and study sessions with mom will become precious bonding time, you will have many sibling dates, and you and dad will enjoy some deep and insightful conversations. You will also purchase a beautiful car that has a God story attached to it.
One of the most profound things you will learn, is how necessary and beautiful worshipping the Lord is. And his stunning purpose for it. You will become aware that when you choose to worship him, your soul will remember him. And when you truly remember him, your natural response will be to worship him! It will become heavy on your heart that God is worthy of worship, no matter the circumstances you are in. You will also become amazed of how easy it is to forget his faithfulness….and how kind he is to remind you of his character through his Word and through his people. This truth will remain on your heart and it will be a blessing in your walk with him. Your view of God will become bigger, which will shift your response to him.
Yet, you will also have really dry seasons too, which will challenge everything you have learned about God. You will cry endless tears and feel angry. You will have lazy days and choose not to read the bible. You will feel defeated and numb. You will wish for things unattainable and sulk more times than I’d like to admit.
You will still remember him. Those hard moments won’t last forever. He is faithful. He is with you. He will work in your heart continually, just like he always has.
For Christmas 2021, you will receive a painting of Jesus holding Mary Magdalene who is weeping in his arms. This moment is portrayed in the TV show, the Chosen, which you will grow to love and tell everyone about. This moment is significant in the show because Jesus not only calls Mary by her real name, but he identifies her as his by saying “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
These words were not just for Israel (and for Mary’s character), but for me too. For everyone. We are his. And that is the most exciting thing I have come to know deeply since the pandemic started. What a beautiful thing. You will hang the frame on your wall and picture yourself as the one in his arms.
Sharaya, don’t fear, now or in the future. For your God is with you wherever you go. He is sovereign over your circumstances, your growth, your feelings, your health, and over the lives of the people you love. And he has a marvelous plan too. Just watch and see.
Sharaya (January 2022 )