I already miss the world. The world as it was, and the ways it won’t go back after this is all over. But mostly the world as it will be again, eventually, hopefully. I miss sitting in Panera on Saturday mornings, listening to the table of older Catholic folks who I always made a point to sit near. I miss dinner with students.
I miss being able to invite everyone. I miss being able to invite anyone. I miss feeling normal at the grocery store. I miss game nights and laying a hand on a friend’s shoulder to stable myself during a deep belly laugh and I miss when there are more people than seats and no matter, he really doesn’t mind sitting on the floor and of course we can squeeze her in on the couch.
I miss worship. I miss losing my voice in a sea of other voices. I miss that guy who sings off-key, but with more joy (and volume) than anyone else. I miss the creaking of the pews. I miss the shuffling of papers as we all open our Bibles and our liturgies, I miss the sound of firm whispers from mothers to children, stern reminders to be quiet, as the preacher eases into his sermon. I miss old people whose names I don’t even know. I miss handshakes and hugs and how they made me feel the peace of Christ physically. I miss passing the bread to the person behind me, and getting to bless them with the words, “This is Christ’s body, broken for you,” even as I had just been blessed. I wonder what it will be like to cry on Easter.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So does social distance. And we should let it. We should want all these things more, not less. We have to let this break our hearts. The Lord says He wants to give us hearts of flesh, and hearts of flesh feel. Hearts of flesh hurt. Hearts of stone don’t. A broken heart is a testimony to the goodness at the center of creation that, in the end, is restored. But not yet. A broken heart is not a despairing heart, for despair knows no such goodness, or beauty. Only broken hearts bear witness to the beauty that was, and will be again. And so only broken hearts can hope.
Is it any wonder that God cursed that serpent back in the beginning? For He saw more clearly than anyone what had just been unleashed on the world. War, famine. And plague. His love for the world moved Him to wrath on that snake and a promise of salvation for the man and the woman, and for the whole world.
The news in the coming days will get worse before it gets better. When we get the daily count of those who’ve died, let it break your heart. If we hear of doctors and nurses collapsing from exhaustion, let it break our hearts. When we haven’t seen our friends, haven’t hosted a dinner, haven’t gathered for worship in months, let it break our hearts. If you see an overrun hospital, and people dying, gasping for air, let it break your heart.
Remember that what ultimately kills a victim of crucifixion is suffocation. Let it break your heart when you remember another Person, hanging on a cross, gasping for air, and asking why it feels like God has left us all alone in this dark, dark world.
Let it all break your heart, because it breaks God’s. It’s not the world that He intended, at all. And then let your heart be led back toward hope, in that suffocated Man who finally stopped breathing completely, but then caught His breath again three days later, never to lose it again. And rejoice in the sure hope that He intends to breathe life back into this whole world one day soon.
Psalm 34.18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
Matthew 5.3-4: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”