Today I stood, clothes soaking wet, taking a look around at the sizeable crowd that had gathered for the occasion.

And I was grateful and full of joy.

Across the Causeway, at Northeast Point people were mingling, chatting, some hugging others who were similarly dampened by the cold water of the Atlantic.

No matter the time of year, it’s always cold. Only the temperature of the air changes. And today it was beautiful, sunny, and warm. Perfect for what we were doing.

We represented a handful of local churches joining together to celebrate as seven people entered their baptismal waters.

For my part, I had the privilege of baptizing a young woman from our church and my twin 12 year old sons. What a gift to be able to do so. It was an honour to baptize them.

Two other pastors led four more into the water to confess their faith in and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was beautiful. It was brilliant. It was glorious, absolutely glorious.

You see, it’s on days like this I’m reminded what it means to be a pastor. Because as I watched all of the people there, from a bunch of different churches, talking, mingling, laughing, and, in the case of the kids, playing, I realized just how big and wondrous God and his kingdom and his story of grace are.

What God is up to is so much bigger than me.

But here’s the crazy thing. I get to participate in what he’s doing. So do you.

When I baptize someone, I get to play one small part in their story, in their walk with God. I may baptize someone, but they belong to Christ. And what Christ is doing in their life is not under my control but his.

I felt the same way as I watched all of these people, believers I know from different churches, talking together.

A friend of our sons, who is more or less the same age and had already been baptized, gave each of them a beautiful handwritten letter, congratulating them on their baptism. They have known her since they were five years old. She and her family used to attend our church, but even though they no longer do, they are still friends.

What God is up to is also bigger than any one church.

We can’t control what God does. How he chooses to work in someone else’s life, and in this or that church, is entirely up to him. He is sovereign and he is mighty and he is gracious.

And he is at work—in your life and in the lives of people around you, pursuing, extending grace, inviting each of us to trust in him and to rest in his presence and promises revealed in the good news of Jesus.

Today was a good day. Today I was a witness to how God has drawn people—young and old—to place their faith in him. I was a witness to the ongoing power of God’s grace in our world. Baptism tells the story of God’s grace. It’s a story I never tire of hearing.

COVID Fatigue and Giving Yourself Grace

In our province, we are in Phase 2 of a COVID re-opening plan. We can return to our church building this coming Sunday.

And I am very glad that we can do so.

But I am still a little tired. Sometimes more than a little.

And it’s not really a physical tiredness. It’s emotional and spiritual.

I don’t even know how to quite describe it. But I think it’s the accumulation of the last year and a half’s worth of news, COVID shutdowns and restrictions, loud voices on the far left and right decrying their political and cultural opponents, and all the pivots we’ve had to make.

Some of this weariness is my own fault. I have probably watched and listened to too much news and opinions regarding all of the cultural issues that have arisen in light of COVID. I perhaps didn’t take advantage of the upside of this last shutdown like I might have. After all, last year I read a bunch of books.

All I can say is that I don’t feel especially energized or excited about getting back to so-called normal. Who knows, maybe once it actually happens–to whatever degree it does–I will feel differently.

Maybe it’s also because we don’t really know if we’ll have to go into lockdown again or if there will be an upsurge of COVID cases in our province. It’s not really something anyone can reliably predict.

During this last shutdown my wife told me something maybe someone else out there needs to hear: give yourself grace.

Don’t be so unforgiving of yourself. You’re not perfect. No one expects you to handle these circumstances perfectly. And even if someone does expect that of you, you still won’t. You can’t. So phooey for them.

In other words, don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a break. Take a time out. You don’t have to bear the weight of the world or solve every problem or understand every issue. You’re not the centre of the universe.

You see, we have to remember none of us has ever really been through anything like this before. This last year and a half (or so) was not something most of us would have anticipated. None of us were prepared for spending weeks restricted to our homes, unable to go about our normal lives as we knew them.

I mean, COVID also hit us during the US presidential campaign. So, yeah, that happened.

There were also protests, riots, looting, burning cities, the tearing down of statues of historical figures.

Not to mention how politicized COVID itself became, with people debating how to balance public health concerns with personal freedoms, whether or not masks were effective and necessary, and health and government officials at least appearing to give sometimes inconsistent and confusing messages about the guidelines and their efficacy.

And we all had a front row seat.

Add to this being unable to see family and friends, not being able to gather in our churches, having vacation plans curtailed, not being able to go out together as a family, having our kids doing school online from home, and is it any wonder our whole culture needs a vacation, a genuine rest, an opportunity simply to exhale, breath deep, and take a moment to reflect on who we are and what we need?

Yet some of us have had the expectation of ourselves that we should still somehow be able to do what we’ve always done as well as we’ve usually done it.

So if you’re in a place where things around you are beginning to re-open after having gone through a COVID lockdown, but you’re not as excited as you think you’re supposed to be: give yourself grace.

If you’re tired of all the news, and feel like you’re supposed to have a stronger position on some of the COVID related issues but you don’t: give yourself grace.

If you’re frustrated with neighbours, family, or friends because you don’t see eye to eye on masks, vaccinations, and what’s been been going on and they like to argue about it: give yourself grace.

Give yourself grace. (Yes, I’m talking to myself.)

And while you’re at it, give others a little grace too. After all, we’ve all been through this together.

Moreover, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, grace ought to be our calling card. As John 1:16 says, from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

And if God can extend his grace to us, surely we can learn to do the same.