Today marks Day 40 for my family.
Forty days since I last picked up my daughter from preschool.
Forty days since our in-person church gatherings were put on hold.
Forty days of not leaving the house for homeschool group or extracurricular activities.
It’s been forty days of marking time, marching in place, and waiting for the unknown.
Even though we continue to work from home, it’s like we’re working against a door that has been barred shut.
But what are we working *towards*? If enough of us keep leaning into it, beating at it, will the door fall open and give us back everything we left behind?
If there’s anything significant about the number 40, the answer is no.
Noah and his family cared for a boatful of animals while they all rocked in the rain for 40 days and nights.
Jesus disappeared for forty days to wander in the desert.
In the 1660’s, ships suspected of carrying disease were held at bay for 40 days to reduce the risk of spread. 40. Quaranta. These days hold the root of the word quarantine.
These Interruptions in time are comparatively rare, but they are rarely insignificant as times of testing – of revealing truths. Truths about God’s power, About commitment to worshiping God alone. About the presence of disease.
We don’t know how long this societal “quarantine” will last. But we’d be remiss if we don’t recognize it as an opportunity for testing. Yes, opportunity.
No matter how hard we bang against the door, how much we rail against its closure, it’s not going to open as a result of our willpower.
And when it opens, it will open to a different world. Not remarkably different. But different enough.
Do we really want to carry our baggage into that world when we have an opportunity right now to recognize some of those things that have been weighing us down?
Consider that the Israelites waited for 40 days at the foot of a thunderous mountain while Moses received instructions from God.
They got tired of waiting and recreated a god from Egypt.
They credited this god with carrying them through the Red Sea…and they would have tried to carry it with them into the Promised Land.
But trusting in the power of the people never leads to the Promised Land.
It’s what led to 40 *years* of more testing instead. 40 years of marking time and marching in circles.
The temptation is to shake our fingers at the world and tell them it’s their fault. That God is testing *them*. That they need to look inside themselves.
But when we do that, we forget that testing – that discipline – is a gift from God – to refine the people who claim His Name.
That when creation groans under the weight of human ways, God works within it to change us.
That it’s of no little significance that the gathered church is in quarantine, too.
There is so much we can’t control right now. But what we can control is our response to it: Our soul-searching recognition that our ways – no matter how well-intentioned they are – are not necessarily the *best* ways. That God’s constancy is the only constant.
That to be a people of repentance is to stay open to the reality that our ways – both individually and collectively – are ever in need of being changed. Transformed. Renewed.
That we aren’t always right.
To deny this is to reveal that we are in fact guilty of fashioning a god that reflects our own desires more than his.
We don’t know how long these “40 days” will last. I just don’t want to waste them. Don’t want to burst through that door weighed down with images of golden idols masquerading as God.
Only one God can bring us from one world into the next. Let’s spend this time making sure we know who this God truly is and that we want what this God truly wants.