Yes, it’s about our unwelcome visitor Rona
March: Coronavirus, COVID-19, social distancing, shelter-in-place… have any other trigger words you would like to add to the list?
So much has happened this past month that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I should start out by saying that the skeleton of this article came together after hearing David Lomas’ sermon to Reality SF two weeks ago. So David, if there is any chance that you are reading this, thank you for helping me organize my thoughts. (Also I’m a huge fan)
While a lot of what I will talk about in this piece derives from the beliefs that I hold as a Christian, I don’t think that the revelations from this historic “stay-at-home” period are exclusive to believers. So, I hope that at the very least this article sparks something. Alright, I’ve stalled enough. Let’s get into it.
COVID-19 has revealed our humanity
Initially, I saw nothing wrong with a period of social distancing. As someone who has the occasional tendency to want to withdraw and isolate, social distancing felt like an opportunity. The introverted side of me was ready to have her time to recharge, have her own space, and interact with people from the comfort of her own home. Then, a good friend of mine made me realize how ordering people to stay at home intrinsically affects our society.
We are meant to be in community.
By keeping to ourselves, we are going against our design and need to be social. We are depriving ourselves of what it means to be human, making way for loneliness, depression, and other negative effects of being in isolation.
Another realization that I have seen circulating the interweb is the differences in lifestyle changes that come from a shelter-in-place mandate. Being able to stay at home, more so work from home, is such a privilege. Staples of life that are considered to be “basic,” such as having a roof over your head, highlight great economic disparities and reveal to us the luxuries we didn’t even know we had. This new coronavirus has managed to uncover countless insecurities in our society. Furthermore, our greed. Our collective fight or flight response has manifested in hoarding supplies and stoking xenophobia.
I would argue that everything I have mentioned until now points to our ignorance. COVID-19 has revealed our humanity; it has exposed our ignorance.
Our lack of knowledge, attention, and experience of what other people face is quite disheartening to say the very least. And while ignorance can seem like an individual journey in the “cancel culture” that we live in, it is what actually binds us together.
We are all ignorant of the fact that everyone is going through it
We are living in really interesting times. To look at it abstractly, life where coronavirus holds the limelight feels like a weird social experiment. I’m sure we can expect some future blockbusters that will be made in light of our current situation; I, for one, am waiting to see a coronavirus-inspired Grey’s Anatomy episode. But seriously! It’s crazy to me that, for the most part, everyone in the world is dealing with the same external problem.
First responders around the world are fighting tirelessly against this unrelenting virus. Those who are staying home are looking for ways to avoid coronavirus-induced cabin fever. We are all dealing with this virus in our own way.
All of this makes me wonder, when has the world collectively put a pause on the normal pace of life before? When does that ever happen? Nothing comes to mind, at least in the time frame of my own life. Thus, the dichotomy between a society that’s always itching to move onto the next and this restricting disease has been fascinating to observe. It’s almost as if our restlessness is what ultimately forced us to rest. Ironic.
The agitating question of the hour then becomes:
I think the answer to that is empathy. Cheesy, I know. But it’s true. Everyone has been negatively affected by COVID-19 to some degree. Weddings are being postponed, people are being laid off, graduations and proms are being canceled; every age group has their own reason to grumble. And while people are more than justified in mourning their respective losses, it is unproductive to be at each other’s throats trying to win a meaningless battle of who has it worse. People are dying. Moreover, it is toxic and inexcusable to verbally and physically abuse an entire racial group. Reading about elderly being assaulted because of their race and seeing jokes and comments be made about a generalized perception of Asians is demoralizing. But even in those moments, when the hate seems stronger than the hurt, I am reminded that empathy goes both ways. Though cruel and unjustified, brutal acts arise from deeper troubles. Maybe it’s naive of me to think that practicing empathy could make a difference. But if there’s anything to learn from this season, it is that ignorance is not bliss.
On a final note, it can be hard to make sense of our current circumstances as believers and nonbelievers alike. It is unsurprising that as Christians in these times we are tempted to question the character of God, someone we know to be loving, just, and sovereign. But what should strike us is that nonbelievers ask those very same questions. When it boils down to it then, what sets us apart?
Hardships are always difficult. By no means do I intend to downplay the experience of life’s malevolent valleys. But as I have painfully learned in my own life, upholding and remaining steadfast in our beliefs is what our faith sets out to be. It is the comfort and relief in knowing that our victory is unwavering because it is found in Jesus– in whom our afflictions are acknowledged, accounted for, and have been redeemed.
If I’m being honest, I am so quick to point the finger back at God and pin my own faith against a wall to bully it to death for answers. To be even more truthful, I wince when the encouragements Christians give sound like exhausted efforts of trying to make light of some really dark times. I am not proud of it, but my wariness of this causes me to withdraw. I feel like being privileged in our own regards, and having this faith alongside it, we run the risk of sounding tone-deaf to the struggles that people face. And when push comes to shove, we fear looking like frauds that only cling to truths when it seems convenient. Perhaps I am only speaking to my experience here. But to wrap up this addendum, the more I reflect on the different ways to approach life, the more I would rather believe in something than nothing. I would rather be frustrated in not understanding why my creator allows certain things to happen than be exasperated by there being no greater intention or meaning to anything. From that, I’ve come to appreciate that it really is different to experience something than to know something. The difference in belief that is produced is evident in practice.
So even if we do not understand, even if we wrestle with the way that life can be, we should find stability and courage in knowing that in the darkness is where God does some of his best work.
And with that, I hope you are safe and reading this from wherever you have chosen to abide by our civic duty to stay at home. Download Houseparty, play Skribbl.io, and enjoy each other’s company. The internet is always extra entertaining and maddening during times like this. Hopefully, this article leans somewhere towards the former.