literal new birth: This year we welcomed into the world our grandson Emmett—and two more grandchildren are due before the end of the year!
I hosted Emmett’s mom, my daughter Elisabeth, on my daily video blog recently. As she pointed out, the year 2020 and the first half of 2021 will be long remembered as a time of death. Yet … there are also these births to celebrate. New life in the midst of grief. New realizations, new habits, new endeavors, new beginnings that happened this past year—which may not have emerged at all without the catalyst of all the stress.
The latest edition of the Planet Money podcast on NPR reported that 2020 was the best year on record for new business creation since the Census Bureau began tracking it. We’re in a start-up explosion, a baby boom of businesses. Why? Experts suggest that somehow the pandemic inspired people to take risks they had been putting off for years.
At some point during the holiday weekend, find some time to consider: What new thing was “birthed” in your own life this year? What began that you’d like to nurture? This is no denial of our very real disruptions and tragedies. It’s a way to notice glimmers of hope. And hope is necessary to any forward progress.
Here’s some inspiration. In my blog, I asked viewers to send me stories about what was born into their lives over the past 16 months.
Allison King wrote, “God put in me the desire to go to school—and birthed in me the courage to do so!”
“It slowed me down,” said Kathy Moeller, “And allowed me to spend time with my husband, rip pages off my calendar, research family genealogy and generally learn to breathe.”
One man reported that, as if the lockdown was not enough, he also went through cancer treatment at the same time. With all the enforced downtime, he decided to fulfill a long-time dream and arrange music. To his great surprise, he found a publisher, and already seven books of his arrangements have been published, including a volume of Irving Berlin music.
“I lost my husband Noel a few months before the pandemic,” Marsha Strong-Smith wrote me. “During the lockdown, I realized painting was part of my grief healing process and I’ve continued down this path. I applied for Open Studios and I was surprised to be accepted. This has given me a renewed excitement to ‘start all over again.’ In some ways, the lockdown was one of the best things that has happened to me.”
There were wonderful stories about literal new births. One woman wrote about her daughter adopting a baby. “God provided $25,000 through loving family and friends for adoption costs … For a while, it looked like it wasn’t happening at all. There is way too much detail to go into, but I just kept hearing God say, ‘Trust me.’ After a roller coaster of emotions our son-in-law and daughter brought home a gorgeous baby girl. What this birthed in me was that when God says, ‘Trust me,’ He knows the road ahead. I do not. It has given me bigger faith to pray bigger prayers and to trust God with bigger things.”
“What God did In my life during this past year was help me quit drinking alcohol,” wrote another woman. “It was a miracle; I thought I’d never be able to give it up. Because of the stressful circumstances of the pandemic I reached out and asked Jesus to enter my sinking boat, and you know what? He did! That desperate prayer went out on Sept. 24, 2020, and I had my last drink on Sept. 30. The following Monday I started attending my Monday night recovery group. I’ve got almost nine months of sobriety. I’d battled alcohol addiction for years, justifying it by saying I was a ‘functional alcoholic.’ I went to work, took care of my family—but there was wreckage. It hasn’t been an easy road, but God sure has met me along the way. I feel like I’m really living for the first time in a long time.”
What about you? Did you start on a new path? Did you begin healthier habits, spiritually or physically? Do you have a better appreciation for the value of life? Have your priorities changed?
Keep your eyes open for the life springing up all around you and inside you. There is hope. God has a new birth waiting for you.
Centuries ago, as the ancient nation of Israel went through a crisis of war and vast destruction, the prophet Isaiah recorded these words of hope from God: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
God is doing a new thing. The question he asks you and me is, “Do you perceive it?”
René Schlaepfer is senior pastor of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, www.tlc.org.