What was that black velvet jacket telling me?

Just thirteen months ago, who could have imagined the things Canadians are experiencing right now? We scarcely recognize ourselves as the indomitable Western society we were just over a year ago. God has used the pandemic to humble us.

I have shopped in person only rarely since COVID restrictions began. But the other day my daughter and I donned masks and went thrift store shopping. As she searched for something in another area, I shifted through a rack in the ladies clothing department.

Item by item slid past me, until my hand stopped suddenly at a black velvet jacket with sequins and exquisite embroidery. Fingering the luxurious fabric produced an unexpected reaction—a lump in my throat and a stinging behind my eyes.

I rarely enter situations emotions first. My reaction shocked me. I’d never even owned such a garment. Puzzled, I stood wondering. Then understanding. The jacket reminded me of what we’d lost to the pandemic. Events until quite recently taken for granted in a privileged society. Places where one may have worn such a garment. Church. Weddings. Funerals. Musical concerts and theatre productions. Standing and sitting, even acting, shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers. People having emotions in public, faces uncovered.  

It also brought back dress-up parties attended with my grandchildren. Once their mother and the girls presented me with a costume item from that very store; a formal black dress with sequins. I wore it during an impromptu family concert in our living room.

These days our living room is mostly silent; visitors discouraged by pandemic guidelines. The Beans come over for childcare sometimes; eldercare, really. Or to help with a task we can’t manage alone. Sunshine returns with them. We do the chicken dance. Bake treats. Make stuff. Play games. Without even trying, they banish the disabling loneliness that too often snakes under the door. Even Cash and GraceCat get excited.

Everyone wants answers. So do I. Someone to tell us that this will all be over by summer. Or winter. Just a date, please. There are none. And no way to bring back the people, the memories, the seasons, the experiences we’ve lost. No assurances from government. And no eraser vast enough to obliterate the fear in the voices that surround us.

Author and pastor Erwin Lutzer, in his remarkable book, “Pandemics, Plagues and other Natural Disasters: What is God saying to us?” notes that God always has his reasons for everything he allows to touch his creation. He also notes that what God allows, he could also disallow. That he has chosen not to remove the virus should tell us something.

As a society we are learning the lessons of loss that throughout history many other societies around the world have also had to learn. That true joy and fulfillment come only when we humbly lean only on what no circumstance or government can remove: the certainty of God’s Sovereignty, the fear of God’s justice, the vastness of God’s love and the sweet mercy of God’s hope.

If ever I came close to wearing a black velvet jacket, it was with these people, at government and riding functions, either representing them in their absence or attending beside them. I’m standing between my bosses – two godly Members of Parliament, one former (Garry Breitkreuz), one current (Cathay Wagantall).

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