Seeing the whole picture from a family’s perspective
Editor’s Note: The pandemic has wreaked havoc on almost every imaginable event including high school graduations. Keep in mind, not only the graduate missed graduation, but so did his or her family who spent untold hours of helping the graduate reach the milestone. Jay Barbier, youth specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, his wife, Natalee, and son, Jay, provide their perspectives.
Jay Barbier — A dad’s perspective
Let’s take a look into our current situation from one family’s perspective. Going through the experience of a pandemic has been overwhelming. The Lord has impressed on my heart to share thoughts from a student about to graduate, a mother wanting her son to enjoy the last moments of high school, and what is going through my mind as a father and the TBMB youth specialist.
First, as a father, I was overjoyed at the thought of a couple of weeks at home with my family. Daily times in the Word, memory verses, and talking about theology, RIGHT? Wrong, constant media attention, watching the loss of life across the world, and seeing so many businesses and local churches having to close until further notice. This has led to many families being on the brink of losing everything they have. This affects a family, if not personally, it affects each family because it pulls at their heart emotionally for friends and family.
Second, my heart hurt for my son. I wanted him to say his goodbyes and enjoy the end of one chapter of life and start the next. We are still finding out news for what’s next. So many questions have come up! When will graduation be? Will prom happen? What about those conversations that so many have on those last couple of days? All of this is gone, for now.
Third, as a youth leader in Tennessee, I’ve been excited to watch ministry happen in homes. The gospel has continued to move forward. Amazing ministry is happening through Zoom meetings, talking on the phone and social media. Honestly, my desire as a youth pastor was for students to be active in the Word of God at home. What we have seen is family Bible study, worship together, and students open up about their faith.
Natalee Barbier — A mom’s perspective
As my son Caleb started his senior year of high school, I knew it was going to be filled with rites of passage that every student experiences with prom and graduation being at the top of the list. Then on March 13 everything changed. Late Friday afternoon we got a phone call saying school was going to be out for the next couple of weeks due to the recent developments of COVID-19. Little did we know that that Friday in early March was the last time Caleb would walk the halls of his high school as a student at Siegel High. There was to be no prom or graduation at the time we had planned for all year. Caleb had worked so hard. Now everything seems to be on hold.
As a mom, I had so many emotions. I found myself crying at the drop of a hat. I had planned for graduation day for so long. Many family members were going to be traveling in from hundreds of miles away to see Caleb walk across the stage. We were going to have a party to celebrate his accomplishments. Now what?
I made a decision to start celebrating Caleb’s success now. A friend added me to a Facebook page that celebrated graduating seniors in our area. I shared some of Caleb’s senior photos and a small blurb about his accomplishments. Within minutes of the post several people “adopted” Caleb. Gifts started to arrive at our home from people around our city. He was even surprised by one of his teachers with a visit to our home and a gift.
I sent out his graduation announcements just as I had planned to do. The only difference it will not be on that Saturday in May like we have planned.
We have a tentative graduation date planned for end of June. They are even hoping to have prom the week before. Until then, we will continue to celebrate Caleb’s accomplishments and remember that God is in control.
Caleb Barbier — A graduate’s perspective
Over the last couple of months, I have seen my world come to a complete halt. When I heard that schools were closing due to COVID-19, I was a little nervous by the situation, but for the most part I was ecstatic to get a short break away from the busyness of life. I thought this would be an opportunity to really chill out and relax for a short lived two weeks. Never did it cross my mind that those two weeks could extend to several months away from my friends, school and church family.
Personally, coming to an abrupt stop has not been all too comfortable. This time has allowed me to see angst in my own heart and life. The longer I am away from others, the more prone my mind becomes to wander. Isolation began to give way to anxiety. I started to worry about things I had never thought about, things like am I going to get sick and how am I going to die. On top of this compulsive worry for my health, I had to come to grips with the possibility of not having a high school graduation or prom. The thought of not seeing most of my peers again was and is a weighing thought.
This situation has been low at best, but the Spirit has reminded me through His Word and others that the gospel is enough. A believer might think that the gospel is just for the nonbeliever, but this simply isn’t true. The gospel is for the church as well. Without the gospel, Christianity is meaningless. One step further, without the gospel our lives are hopeless.
The beacon of the Christian is the gospel and the gospel is this: for our sake Jesus took on flesh to be sin even though He knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The gospel isn’t a performance-based promise, rather it’s about a loving and gracious God who willed to crucify His Son in our place. We didn’t seek God, yet He sought after us. We can’t earn hope, He bought it. The gospel is true love and we need this reminder constantly.
The gospel is why I have hope, that even if I was to perish from this disease, I would only gain. Yes, this disease has brought anguish, but God brought us the gospel. Dear believer, remind yourself of the gospel. Our hope is in Christ alone. Look to His salvation for hope in times of trial, so that we might grow stronger through turmoil. Rejoice in the gospel, be patient in this affliction, and constantly find yourself in prayer. Meditate on the gospel, because worry is only present in hopelessness.