“It is what it is.” Until it isn’t.

If 2020 had a phrase, that might be it. “It is what it is.”

I started hearing people use it in the summer, but it really hit me hard when President Trump used it to refer to COVID-19’s death toll in the U.S.

I hate this phrase. For starters, it’s obvious, like saying you found something in the last place you looked. (Why would you keep looking?)

But the main issue is that “it is what it is” offers no hope, no room for change or growth or plan B.

You can imagine my delight, then, as we listened to Ember Rising (from the Green Ember series) and I heard young, brave rabbit Picket console his sister with these words:

“It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.”

Picket and his rabbit brethren look forward to life in the Mended Wood, even as they suffer greatly in the battle to bring forth the Mending. Doesn’t life feel like that these days? All creation groans (Romans 8:22), chafing against pain and injustice and death and despair that seems like it is winning.

“It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.”

We’ve read the nativity narrative several times recently, as one does leading up to Christmas. What strikes me this year is a question: why didn’t anyone offer better help to this very pregnant young women?

Didn’t they have a single friend-of-a-friend they could call upon? A distant cousin? A fellow traveler who knew somebody with a spare bed? Could not even the innkeeper be moved to somehow accommodate this young couple in their hour of need?

Joseph and Mary inhabited an “it is what it is” world in a way that our modern, Western sensibilities don’t understand. Possessions were precious and harder to share when there was no Target down the road. Life was harsher, death nearer. It was what it was.

But as she lay in the straw and the muck, bringing God as Man into this world, Mary witnessed the embodiment of the coming “what it shall be.”

And it shall be peace.

And it shall be no more disease.

And it shall be no more tears.

And it shall be justice.

And it shall be good. Because He said so.

Published by MK Jorgenson

Thinking, writing, and talking about Christian stewardship in all of its facets.

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