One aspect of writing that I've taught my students about is "writing to find out." That's when you don't really know what you think on a certain topic, but you write to discover your deeper thoughts. It's as if your first halting words and phrases have a light tether to those deeper thoughts, and you must keep pulling that thread until you get to the heart of the matter. I'm doing that today. Here. I might delete it before I post it, but I kind of doubt it. The first time this topic came to mind, I dismissed it. The 2nd time, I took notice. The 3rd and 4th time, I said, "Ok, Lord, what do you want me to say? And, please help me not to screw it up."
The pandemic is one of the strangest times I've ever experienced in my life. It feels like 9/11 stretched out indefinitely. I'm trying to do what the CDC recommends, social distancing, washing my hands, not touching my face, etc. And yet, I'm still going out to the grocery store or to get gas for the car. We can't see the germs, can't know if someone close to us has just randomly brushed up against someone carrying the virus. It's bizarre. One moment, I'm thrilled with the time off from work, enjoying the Spring warmth, and praising God. The next moment, I feel physiological anxiety start to boil up within me, and I find myself trembling.
In a time such as this, where even the floor beneath my feet feels unstable, I collapse at the mercy of God. I know a ton of theological concepts and a myriad of bible verses that tell me "be anxious for nothing" or "lean not on your own understanding," "hold fast to the confession of your faith," etc. I recognize the truth in each. And believe me when I tell you, God's word is the sure foundation upon which everyone and everything depends. And yet...
I still have questions, fears, and anxieties. I wonder, why now, Lord? Why at this time in human history? I'm afraid of what life might become or what it will look like after. And my anxiety is partly body chemistry that I have no control over. So I find myself thinking about God. Please don't roll your eyes and call me a wingnut. I'm not blaming this virus on God. I'm not seating myself in the heavens and declaring that God is punishing a sinful world or some such. That kind of lofty knowledge is WAY above my pay grade. I do know that God often allows tragedy, He allows natural disasters, He allows the due course of sin and consequence, and He allows the sun to shine on the wicked and the good. I also know that God never wastes our pain or our tears.
I've lived long enough to see God work through all kinds of terrifying events. At times, He works to bring me to my knees because I've gone astray. Other times, I have no direct correlation, but I recognize that God has changed me after the fact. Two seasons of clinical depression knocked the living snot out of me, but each season drove me to Him.
I don't know the future, but I do know that God will not waste the year 2020. Could it be that a world and nation divided will pull together to help each other? Could the social distancing and quarantine help us to recognize our priorities and our mortality? Since we can't go to the movies or the restaurant or the bar, might we attend to people and relationships that, in the end, are so much more meaningful? Is the potential spreading of the virus going to wake us up to recognize hour our action or inaction really does impact others? I don't know. I don't know the future. And I can't read God's mind. But I do know that God is good. He will not waste the events of our lives. And you watch, He will bring good out of all this.
*Amazing art by Jacobo Franger.