Our forty third president famously added a word to our language- “misunderesimate.” He may have coined it, but during COVID 19 I have lived it. Too often I have misunderestimated the power and persistence of the pandemic. I can remember a Zoom gathering of pastors last March where we acknowledged that we would not return to in person worship by Easter. But we were confident that we could return by Mother’s Day and be greeted by crowds of eager worshippers flooding our buildings excited to return to worship. It was a double misunderestimation! Ten months later, we at MUMC have not returned to in person worship and churches who have returned to in person gatherings have not been met with crowds. I also recall that when our international trip scheduled for August 2020 was cancelled in June, I confidently suggested to my wife and traveling companions that we reschedule the trip for May 2021 as international travel would be open by then and any travel kinks worked out- another misunderestimation it now appears....
However, perhaps I have made a worse error in misunderestimating the opportunities present in the pandemic. Too often my attitude has been to just survive or ‘get through’ this pandemic. I hear this sentiment in conversations with others as well. But what if this pandemic is presenting us with an unprecedented opportunity to hit a reset button on our lives? As those who have lived through it to date and are not on the front lines of the battle, we have been given time to reflect on our lives and time to spend with our loved ones at home (as well with loved ones in other places by means of technology). And maybe it has given us a chance to develop habits that will help us after the pandemic. I got the opportunity to develop a deeper devotional life and to spend more quality time with my spouse (and even my dog). I don’t rush off to work early in the morning and I generally spend more evening time relaxing with family. I hope these new habits will continue.
Finally, I wonder if I have misunderestimated our God. A quick review of the biblical narrative reveals that God’s people are often in the midst of crises struggling under Egyptian, Philistine, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman oppression; struggling under the power of sin and death; and struggling with each other. Yet in these crises God does not abandon them, and in times of loss, they find new things are born. God did not cause this current crisis, but don’t miss misunderestimate this one fact: this pandemic can not stop God from loving us, from being with us, and from shaping us in new ways to meet the unknown future.