Mountaintop Moments: Finding Hope in Hard Times

A pastor and new father reflects on the peaks and valleys of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted in , Jun 19, 2020

A pastor and new father reflects on the peaks and valleys of life during the pandemic.

I’ll never forget the life-changing text I received from my wife on February 3, 2020, around three o'clock in the afternoon: "THIS IS HAPPENING."

Our journey into parenthood was about to begin. I promptly said goodbye to my students, rushed out of the classroom and ran to the subway. I also texted a few members of our church, asking for prayer. I also sought advice from my buddies who had been down this road before. Our precious Sophia Rose made her grand entrance at 7:20 p.m. I remember the time exactly, because the doctor asked me to take a picture of her. I was too stunned to grab my phone. This was a mountaintop experience I'm still processing to this very day.

Life has a way of taking us through both mountains and valleys. Although I appreciate every mountain, I’ve discovered that it’s in the valleys where you find resilience during tough times. As a pastor, I always went to the hospital to comfort the dying. However, this was my first time experiencing the miracle of birth. Unbeknownst to me, I found out that on the exact day my daughter was born, my great aunt took her last breath. Here I was in the middle of celebration and reflection, hope and heartbreak—all at the same time.

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life is lived forward but only understood backward.” Shortly after getting settled in at home with baby Sophia, our lives were reduced to a whisper, as Covid-19 swept through the world. There we were, as new parents, trying to make the best of our “new normal” during a worldwide health crisis.

Now, only four months later, I sit in astonishment at another year of life. Who would've thought that a new decade would bring such massive changes? From the blessing of a new baby to the rise of a global pandemic and now, to a world in protest. Sometimes, it still baffles me that I’m celebrating this milestone, while also grappling with a sense of profound loss.

I’ll never forget watching the memorial service for George Floyd, the African-American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, on CNN the day before my birthday. His last words, “I can’t breathe!” are still reverberating in my consciousness. I sat there motionless, grappling with this vicious death, while also celebrating the vicissitudes of life. At that moment, I decided that I would wrestle with the pain of grief while simultaneously glorifying the power of grace. I realized that amid the darkness of our world I had a brand new opportunity before me: to invest, inspire and influence the next generation.

I began to fight my fear and despair with a faith declaration.

Before bedtime every night, I began to whisper in my daughter's ear: “You have been born at the greatest time in history.” Why? Because in the middle of chaos, confusion and calamity these are times of revolution; every revolution brings with it a sense of renewal. In essence, while we are still in quarantine my heart is overjoyed to know that God smiled on me another day and I could pay it forward by offering a glimpse of hope in the darkness. To me, that is a birthday present I’ll always cherish.

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