As It Used to Be
In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter – I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins – and will rebuild it as it used to be. – Amos 9:11 (NIV)
I haven’t sat in traffic like this in a year. The GPS shows a red thread stretching between me and my destination. I’m driving to our church president’s new house for our monthly check-in, and it’s rush hour in Chicago.
I’m late. I haven’t been late in a year.
Last month on Zoom someone suggested we could meet in person next time. We’d be vaccinated. It would be fun.
Now I’m driving an hour and a half one way for a meeting that we’ve gotten down to 30 minutes since we went virtual. My palms are sweating from the social anxiety. Then I remember I should have brought a housewarming gift.
I didn’t even think of it. I haven’t been in another house for a year.
Until now, I would have read this passage from Amos as good news. Return from exile. The city rebuilt “as it used to be.”
Now I know it’s more complicated.
There are plenty of things that were bad about the way things used to be, for one. But even the good things, the things I’ve missed … am I ready for a return?
Our half-hour meeting balloons to five hours round trip. I show up empty-handed. I am awkward (perhaps as it used to be).
And as the evening stretches out, and we plan what’s next for our congregation, and we eat and drink, and my face starts to hurt from laughing, I realize: I haven’t felt like this in a year.
It’s good. The inconvenience. The inefficiency. The effort to be near one another. The spending of our lives on each other. It’s worth it.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.
God of return, give me peace and energy to welcome back the good things.
*Plus the accessibility we’ve learned this year.