As a pastor, I get the privilege of officiating at weddings. It is such a joy to be a part of a wedding ceremony, especially if I have a relationship with the couple. In the opening of the ceremony, it says: “The covenant of Christian marriage was established by God, who created us for each other.” Covenant is a word that we do not use a lot in our culture today. Instead of building covenants, we write contracts. Contracts are documents drawn up by a lawyer to protect our own self interest and when things astray the contract can be broken. Covenants are agreements between two people and when things go astray, you press on and trust each other to work things out. “Until death do us part.”
The Bible–particularly the Old Testament–has much to teach us about covenants. God’s covenant to Abraham in Genesis becomes the promise to redeem the whole world. This week was Easter Sunday. We reflect on the gospel of Mark where we see God make a covenant with humanity through the cross for redemption and salvation (Mark 14:23–24). When we are caught in “The Middle” of a crisis like we are now with a global pandemic, we need to rely on God’s promise and covenant and trust that he will be with us.
The challenge is to keep our trust in the covenant when hard times hit. Tracey and I were married in a covenant Christian service on July 8, 1995. Like many young people, life was picture perfect (except we were broke). Tracey was in optometry school and I was starting full time ministry in the United Methodist Church working with students. We were expecting our first child in the fall of 1998. Life could not have been better! One night as we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Abby Nicole Mercer all of that hope and excitement turned on a dime. On Abby’s due date, we rushed to the hospital to discover that she had died in utero. We later learned that it was a cord accident–her umbilical cord stretched and tied her up.
A major crisis had found its way into our lives and threw us right into “The Middle”; one way of living had ended and a new way of living was about to begin. We had some really dark times as you can imagine. People would say the craziest things to us like, “God just needed another angel” or “Maybe it’s for the best, Tracey is about to start her career.” (Yes, that actually happened!) It would have been so easy for us to not trust our covenantal vows and drive each other away. But we chose another path. We trusted each other and even though times were dark and overwhelming, we grew closer together. We were able to do this because not only did we trust our marriage covenant, we trusted God’s covenant with us to redeem and make things right.
One of the things we discovered was that God was big enough to handle our anger and our doubts. As we walk together in “The Middle” of the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s put our trust in God’s covenant. We do this by being honest with God about how we really feel. God can handle our anxiety, anger and doubt. The Bible is rich with laments, passionate expressions of grief and sorrow. I can’t say it strongly enough–it is okay and biblical to cry out to God. We need to trust that God is with us and keep doing the practices of the faith. Now more than ever, we need to find time to pray, study scripture, and worship. Another way to trust God’s covenant is to serve. Tracey reminded me that during that time of great sorrow we helped prepare a meal for friends in need. It really helped us in that time of grief to serve others and gave us some semblance of normal.
Abby’s death was not, and never will be, a good thing in our lives, yet God redeemed us. We have two wonderful kids, and Tracey and I are even more committed to each other today than we were on our wedding day. That dark time in our life has made us better parents and has given us a perspective that we would not have otherwise had.
Remember: This time of being in “The Middle” of COVID-19 is just temporary. It is true that life will never be the same again, but God’s covenant will redeem us.