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Look in: Reflections

By Steve Lammers

It’s my turn this week to contribute to our series reflecting on this past year.  Last week, Gianluca described the importance of “looking up.” This week I’m doing some personal reflections about “looking in.”  So without further ado, here are the top five things I learned this year…
  1. Physical church gatherings are more important than I realized.  During necessary lockdowns, churches like us experimented with Zoom, Facebook, and other ways to “gather” when we couldn’t physically be together.  Some churches even experimented with virtual reality services!  And while it’s a blessing to keep some of these things around for those who are unable to attend in person, they are no substitute for bodily presence.  “Doing church” in our robes on the couch (possibly with fast forward in hand!) hurts our growth if such practices become habits rather than necessities.  After all, the Bible teaches that physical affection matters (Romans 16:16 - “greet one another with a holy kiss”).  And personal interactions matter (Hebrews 10:25 – “let us not neglect our meeting together…, but encourage one another”).   I’m grateful to relearn that nothing replaces being in each other’s presence to give hugs and hear one another sing and interact face to face.
  2. Selfishness lives in me in ways I didn’t notice before. When I can’t go where I want when I want, emotions rise in me that are disturbing. Why does not being able to go to a movie or watch live sports matter so much to me?  Why is complaining so much a part of my life even as God clearly commands otherwise (Philippians 2:14?).  I’ve learned that I desperately need God’s grace since my sin runs so deep.  But I’m also praying that I’ll learn to be thankful for what I have rather than fixate on what I don’t have (Philippians 4:11-13).
  3. Humility is part of the cure for anxiety.  This pandemic was a humbling reminder that we are not in control.  I live much of my life deluding myself that I am in control. I think about the future as if I am entitled to guaranteed dates on my calendar. But Jesus said “Do not worry about tomorrow for sufficient is the day for its trouble” (Matthew 6:34).  James urged us not to say “tomorrow we will do this…” as if we were in control (James 4:13).  So instead, I need to relearn the humbling lesson of 1 Peter 5:7: “cast all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.”
  4. Busyness is not an inherent virtue. Pre-pandemic, most of us learned a pace of life that devalues the things that matter most.  But it reminds me of Jesus' words to Martha: “You are worried and troubled about many things” but one thing is necessary (namely sitting at Jesus' feet and learning from Him - Luke 10:41). Thankfully, I was forced to reevaluate my priorities to place a bigger emphasis on things that require a slower pace (prayer, Bible study, conversations with loved ones, reflecting on the goodness of God, and enjoying the birds in my backyard).
  5. Life in a fallen world is not meant to be comfortable.  I’ve realized I have a “push button, fix discomfort” mentality.  I expect comfort.  I think I need comfort.  But when God mercifully disrupts the ease of life – such as through a pandemic – I am reminded that this world will remain broken until Jesus returns.  So I’m learning to pray “come quickly Lord Jesus”, while also asking God to reorient my desires so that instead of demanding worldly comfort, I can seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).