“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19
To say that the corona virus pandemic of 2020 has changed the world would be an understatement. The weeks and months ahead will continue to see us dealing with the impacts of social distancing, “stay at home” orders, closed businesses and schools, limited travel, and most importantly recovery. As this plays out, I am personally curious to see what things will continue to happen now that we have discovered by necessity that they are possible. Many people have grown to use and appreciate grocery delivery and curbside service at take-out restaurants. Teachers and parents have learned a great many new technologies that will help them educate children. We may even see a glorious return of the long hair of the 1970’s and big hair of the 80’s now that salons and barbershops remain closed.
From my perspective, the new thing that is most likely to stick around is the surge in using video conferencing technology. Most businesses and schools flocked to these programs to keep themselves communicating internally and with clients or students. How many of you celebrated a family event or a holiday on a computer screen? Television networks began utilizing it for interviews or even entire shows. The production quality is lacking, and it seems a bit impersonal, but today there are millions of people around the world who had never tried video conferencing using this technology daily.
Of course, with familiarity comes the need to add to the mix. When a new user first started out, they were most worried about the functionality of the program and making sure they could see and hear and be seen and heard. Once that was mastered, they faced the single most important factor of any online video chat: the background. You might recognize this streak of vanity within you. Taking time to consider your surroundings so that when people see you on screen, they see something cool behind you. In fact, I’m pretty sure that some people care more about how the background looks than they do about their own physical appearance. At first you probably just wanted a space free of clutter. That’s like earning your bachelor’s degree. That quickly escalated to the master’s where you spent time finding a background that had something visually interesting that also shared something about your unique personality: bookcases filled with interesting books and figurines, pictures or artwork that showed off our interests or sense of style, perhaps a window overlooking a nice part of the yard. Just not an air vent or a light switch, or a boring wall. Finally, you earned your Ph. D. by actively looking at and critiquing the backgrounds of other people with whom you conference to see what behind them. You’ve graduated when you start reminding yourself that you need to stop looking at what is in the background of the people on your chat and begin paying attention to what is being said. Sound familiar? You do not have to answer that!
Truth be told, we are all probably guilty of spending too much time focused on the backgrounds on our video calls. That said, it is interesting how this mirrors real life for so many of us. We are very often finding ourselves trying to insert ourselves into the business of others, while at the same time trying to present the best possible image of ourselves for the world to see. It’s probably just human nature, but seeing that we are sinful by nature, this just becomes another way for us to self-promote all the while hiding the reality of our messy lives (and homes 😊).
All of us are sinful. All of us fall short of the expectations God has given us to worship Him, to do right by others and take care of ourselves. If our video backgrounds truly reflected our lives, we wouldn’t see books, sports memorabilia, and artwork. It would be filled with broken promises, failures, and missed opportunities. The stain of sin permeates everything about us, leaving us hurt and damaged. Our brokenness leaves us with no opportunity to change and therefore, without hope. Thankfully, our God is a God of love and restoration. Through His son, Jesus Christ, that brokenness that we feel is repaired, the shame that sin hangs over us is cleared away. Our sins have been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, separating us from our sinfulness and bringing us to a place where we can present ourselves to the Father without blemish. We can move forward into a new and right relationship with God.
The words of Isaiah 43:18-19 proclaim this new relationship by reminding us to keep our past where it belongs: in the past. The sins of yesterday are gone; forgiven and forgotten. The accomplishments of yesterday are also behind us, allowing us to focus on a new day and a new opportunity to let the Holy Spirit use us to further the work of the kingdom. It doesn’t matter what we are facing. God has provided the way, the means, the resources, and assures us of His continual presence to see us through. May we cling to this promise He made to us so that we can keep moving forward until we are given the eternal gift won for us by our loving Savior.