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A Message of Hope

stronger apart

In this new world of coronavirus, our lives are turned upside down, but us humans possess such great powers that we have turned all things negative into positives.
Love used to demand hugs and embraces; now it means distance and separation.  Not so long ago, it was our norm to greet with handshakes and side kisses; now we stay six feet away and shout a hearty hello.  House parties have become zoom sessions, and fellowships and social gatherings have been sidelined indefinitely, leaving us with Facetime and video chats  Tens of thousands of sick people are dying alone as family, friends, and clergy are forbidden to visit them in the hospital.  Yet, this new normal is not about loving less – it is about loving differently.
In times past and in diverse ways, we were stronger together.  We met together, ate together, worshipped together, worked together, and played together.  Now here we are – fully apart from each other, and our new reality is that we are STRONGER APART!
The paradox of human existence is that opposites can have the same or greater power than their antonyms, and that which appears antithetical to the positive is now on parallel paths.  Simply stated, we are finding the beauty in the ashes, the better in the bitter, and the glory in the tragic story.
Our hope in being together later is in our discipline of staying apart now. Oh, how the slogans have changed. Four years ago, we could hear the rousing sound of Hillary Clinton’s rallying cry, “Stronger Together!”  Today, in diverse tongues and in ten thousand voices, the reverse rings true, and without contradiction, we are “stronger apart.”
Before COVID-19 hit New York, visiting my 87-year-old mother in New Jersey was almost a weekly ritual, and higher than our eagerness to see mom was her fervid desire to see her “other” favorite son.  Sunday dinner was always elaborate at Amy’s house and this was a routine that my wife and I, and many of our siblings, looked forward to with zestful devotion.
But then came the coronavirus and the news about what was happening in New York City.  Before the governors of New York and New Jersey  and our city’s Mayor instituted shelter-in-place and social distancing, my mother banned us from leaving our home in Queens, she forced me to cancel our scheduled trips, and we were forbidden to visit her in New Jersey.  We were not even allowed to drop off groceries on her porch in the little city of Englewood.  We grew stronger apart.
Now I wonder what would have happened if my mother didn’t warn me early.  Would I still be here if I attempted my globetrotting and maintained my active schedule?  As I reflect on the many colleagues and friends that we have lost, I thank God every day for a mother who used the amazing power of the negative to produce in us the positive.
God does the same.  He sent Naaman to dip seven times in the dirty water to make himself clean;  God guided Joseph to a pit so He could elevate him to the palace; and Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi ended up losing everything as God postured her to become a matriarch of human salvation.  We are reassured by a scripture in Romans 12:12 that says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
What makes us stronger apart is the blessed hope that we will be together again.  We will hug again, we will shake hands together again, we will work and worship together again, and we will go by Mother Amy for dinner again.  The infinite power of hope lies beyond the dense walls of our tribulations, and this COVID-19 pandemic requires patience.  So, do not rush to take your mask off; do not rush to get out on the road again; and there’s no need to rush to go by mom’s house for dinner.  Just remember – we are stronger apart!
Finally, be constant in prayer.  God must get your attention not because He needs it, but because you need Him.  And do not run to God because you’re in a season of crisis; go to God because He is God, He loves you, and is the author of our salvation.  With Christ, we are stronger together even when we are apart!