In 1989 it made the top ten most famous quotes. “I’ll have what she’s having.” More than three decades later, even taken out of context, I suspect most of you know the movie and the specific scene that line comes from.
While in a diner Sally, played by Meg Ryan, and Harry, played by Billy Crystal, are arguing. The patrons become transfixed as Sally makes quite a scene. The camera pans to an older woman who famously tells her waiter… “I’ll have what she’s having.” The scene, risque for the late eighties, is both unforgettable and hysterical. Re-watching this classic was refreshing and a sharp contrast to public life during a pandemic.
Notice and Being Noticed
Those making a scene these days are typically angry or politically motivated. While out and about, ‘people watching’ doesn’t have the same lure. Even the ‘please notice me’ people are more subdued. With a mask mandate and social distancing, it’s difficult to read body language. Any communication is muffled and smiles seem pointless. If you do connect with the eyes of a stranger they’re typically filled with fear, resignation or sadness. I’ve found it’s just easier to keep my head down, get the shopping done, and get the heck outta there. And it feels like my behavior is the norm. Social interaction…yet one more casualty of covid19. We remain isolated even on those rare occasions we’re not. As agents for Christ, we are sadly diminished.
Church Under Attack
Our churches are under attack as well. My church, Sandia Presbyterian, is indeed trying. Online services are useful, but most classes and programs have halted. In-person worship feels stiff and awkward and not representative of what God wants communal worship to be. Ministry, in general, is severely handicapped.
Will the Church Survive?
Placing a bet on the future health of the church may seem risky. The odd makers may be inclined to side with the enemy. By all appearances, it is as if he has us pinned on the ground and is taunting us to say uncle.
But… the odd makers would be wrong. In spite of how dire things seem, history does not support an enemy victory, ever. In fact, after our worst times as a country, the church and its followers have come out of it stronger. Amazingly, according to ancient church fathers, in response to persecution, hardship, wars, plagues, pestilence, and disease, the church has in fact, flourished.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is a gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” The Screwtape Letters.
How is it possible for the church to experience growth and vibrancy on the heels of tragedy?
In my view, the church, made up of people like you and me, serves as a signpost, like the one CS Lewis refers to. The church is a beacon of hope. We possess what the world fundamentally needs. No wonder the church has a long history of being the stable center for humanity and society in the wake of crisis and hardship.
Not a Building
It’s important to remember the church is not a building rather a community of believers. Sooooo….it follows that if the the church is a beacon of hope, it’s because you and I, as image bearers of Christ, possess that hope. After all, you can’t impart what you don’t possess.
Just as the church has flourished in the wake of crisis, consider your own personal journey of faith. When did your faith grow the most? For me, without question, my faith grew the most when my circumstances were the worst. As my pain and fear grew, so did my dependence on the Lord. I don’t believe my experience is unique. “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” CS Lewis.
Dire circumstances have the uncanny ability to shed light on what really matters. In the deepest darkest valley, you see your priorities with fresh clarity. And yet even in such chaos, it’s still possible to experience true joy and peace. The way I see it, it’s Christ and His presence that makes the difference. Christ Himself IS the calm in the storm.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”
My Pity Party
Ten days ago while wallowing in my own pity party, a dear friend was kind enough to listen. When I finished, she said with kindness, “ok, that’s what you don’t have… why don’t you think about what you do have?” Her words cut to the core. She was right. I had minimized the value of what I do have. And maybe, just maybe, you have too.
Imagine months from now, when the dark clouds of covid19 have lifted, you’re sitting in a diner. No masks in sight and the place buzzes with animated conversation. You lock eyes with a woman who looks tired and fearful. While wringing her hands, she sees your warm smile, and your peaceful countenance and says … I’ll have what she’s having.
All joking aside, don’t you see it? With all humility, we possess the hope the world needs. We know Him personally. His name is Jesus.
1 Peter 3:15 … always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
The way I see it, this awful pandemic has gifted us with a significant milestone. When the church writes an update to her history, she will account for covid19 and it won’t end with lament rather, a joyful song.
Hope springs eternal.