Surreal, unprecedented, remarkable, challenging, uncertain. Call it what you will; we are living exposed and vulnerable and It. Just. Stinks. All that is familiar, predictable, stable and within our control has been upended, flipped on its head and has left us pining for the good old days. Sure, I may not have appreciated it a few weeks ago, but oh, how I’d love the opportunity to get the kids off to school, go to work, run errands, grab coffee with a friend, shuffle kids to after school activities, make dinner (without wondering what kind of germs may be lingering on the pasta box) and fall into bed wondering how I’d do it all over again tomorrow.
Some might say that, never before, has our humanity stood on such equal ground; one which the name of our country, the colors on our flag, the certificates on our wall or the square footage of our homes offers no tangible protection from this unseen threat that has all but paralyzed our normal way of life. If we have breath, we are vulnerable.
Yet, there is another truth that has equalized humanity since the beginning of time; one that is stronger than any virus and has the ability to bring life, as messy and derailed as it may now be, back into focus. If we have breath, we are loved. Just as some choose to ignore the threat of the first, too many choose to ignore the gift of the latter.
It feels all too appropriate, if you will, that we are living the worst of this pandemic during the season of Lent; a season in which we are challenged to give up something of comfort in an effort to enter more fully into the suffering of Jesus. No one could have predicted our current reality a few weeks ago when the ashes on our foreheads signaled the beginning of our forty-day walk with Christ. Perhaps the most soul-shaking loss is that of knowledge. There are no answers to the questions we, along with our brothers and sisters across the globe, wake up to each morning. When will this end? When can we feel safe again?
We are left with two things invisible to the human eye: this virus that travels unseen from one to another and faith, transmitted through the kindness of one heart to the openness of another. Which do we feel compelled to prepare for? We humans are a funny breed. News of this impending virus led us rushing to gather items we can’t live without, searching for comfort in tangible provisions. Our closets are full of toilet paper, yet our hearts are full of fear. Our thoughts are consumed with worry about what the world will look like once the virus has slowed its course, while the One with all the answers sits quietly by our side in anxious anticipation that we might turn to Him for comfort.
There is no downplaying the reality of COVID-19 and all it threatens to take from us. Every time I think of the suffering brought about by this invisible villain, my eyes fill with tears. Those who have lost loved ones without the closure of being with them when they took their last breath, without the opportunity to gather with family and friends to celebrate a life well lived. I think of all the families separated from one another in the hope that the distance will protect them from permanent loss. I think of all the healthcare workers in their heroic capes of white, the pharmacists, the grocers and truck drivers supplying our needs — all those whose work is essential to our life continuing on some level of normal — and the millions across the globe that have been told their life’s work is nonessential, as if the well-being of their family could be reduced to making one list or another.
The suffering is undeniable. The deep sadness and overwhelming fear is a daily, sometimes moment to moment, challenge to keep in check.
If we want to lock ourselves in the pantry and cry, God certainly wouldn’t blame us. He just wants an invitation to join us. All social-distancing rules are off the table with this guy. If we want to yell and scream about the million different frustrations that now make up our daily life, there will be no harsh judgement. God just asks for a tiny opening in our hearts to send us some peace. If we tire of trying to find the good in a situation that feels overwhelming and nothing but rotten, God wants the chance to show us the beauty only He can create out of the ugly.
Wherever we may be on our journey of faith, the lasting truth that belongs to each one of us is that we are not alone in our isolation, or our suffering. The fear, the sadness, the devastation; it has all been endured before. The One that was ruthlessly persecuted is now our truest companion in our own trials. He is in the midst of this, and if there is any light to glimmer through the darkness, He will bring it before us.
In the spirit of transparency, I admit I was first in line at Target grabbing what comfort I could in extra supplies. I have a need, like, legit, sanity-saving need, to have an adequate store of paper towels at all times. The last roll in the pantry brings on a decent dose of anxiety. Life just feels “doable” if my select-a-size is plentiful. It’s kinda a funny thing, but became much less funny when my paper life-savers made the out-of-stock list at every store across the country.
It’s a glimpse into the reality that all earthly comforts are temporary, and fully inadequate in providing the level of peace and security we seek. The weight of this cross can only be balanced with the love of the One who has carried it all before. We need to laugh, we need to cry. We need permission to be angry and frustrated and frightened. It’s all OK. As long as at the end of the day we fall into the arms of the One whose Bounty (pun entirely intended) is true, complete and lasting.
Copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson