This most recent coronavirus is not the first humankind has had to contend with, and it won’t be the last. This pandemic serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that indeed all things are fallen and frail including our bodies, our planet, and our systems and structures. This is the bad news, and events like this new spread of a novel coronavirus stop us short if we’ve somehow forgotten that most things fundamentally don’t work the way they were intended too.
The good news, however, is that in the midst of pervasive brokenness, God is always about the business of redemption. Our God is a redeeming God, and he’s always redeeming! So whenever I encounter such examples of the fallenness of all things, a great question to be asking is, “So how might this be being redeemed as well?” It’s too soon to tell, but already I’m encouraged by the possible redemption of COVID-19 in several key areas including our culture, our churches, our families, and our personal lives.
One possible redemption is how we are observing that love can spread like a virus too. We’ve been seeing this in hundreds of ways around the globe, including actions that have led to the coinage of the new term “caremongering” (as opposed to scaremongering) in Canada. Another term has been beautifully co-opted in the Washington DC area, from here, “Across this area, small neighborhood militias are forming — militias of kindness, assistance and caring.” Tara and I are one of probably thousands and thousands of people who have taken this as an opportunity to simply reach out to our neighbors and make ourselves available to help in any way. I hope they feel loved by that, and that love will thereby spread just a little further, and our community will tighten up just a little bit more.
Even as a virus spreads through person to person contact often in seemingly small ways, so love spreads like this too, and this has been profoundly encouraging, particularly in this divided time in our world and nation. It is a moment when what is true is becoming fact: that we human beings are actually all in this together, and our common humanity unites us even more than the things that divide us.
It’s been observed that a common enemy is a most powerful tool to unite a people, and with this coronavirus, we have one.
The ways that people are rallying to help people in their immediate communities is breaking down so many walls so fast that we can hope (and pray) that one of the redemptions in this season is more tightly knit communities of shared experience and mutual help in the future.
Another possible redemption is how this crisis has refocused and provided new energy for a fundamental vocation of the Church, to exist for the sake of others, and particularly for the vulnerable. Through articles, social media, and the several church services I live-streamed this past Sunday, it’s been so encouraging to see churches particularly framing this disruption of regular congregational worship as fundamentally an act of love towards others by seeking to halt the spread of coronavirus. I believe God is even more honored and worshipped by this than by whatever songs would have been corporately sung in a sanctuary this past week. Churches are recapturing and articulating the fact that the worship God most desires is the love of other people (Micah 6:8; James 1:27), even when that love takes a most counterintuitive form such as suspending what the signature offering of most churches is – the weekly gathering for corporate worship. The implications of this shift in a mindset could have beautiful implications for years to come.
Related to this might be the new ways of making program and service offerings available to many more people online because many churches have been forced to figure it out and implement quickly. New horizons for much more ministry have likely been cracked open, even if initially it was an unwelcome opportunity to have to do so.
Beyond that, many churches are rallying to provide tangible help for those most vulnerable to this coronavirus or impacted by it. Whether it be through food delivery or prescription pickups or providing childcare and even economic assistance for those most affected, so far the church seems to be stepping up to faithfully fulfill another of its vocations, to serve people. It has thrust our obligation to our proximate neighbors even more squarely on our screen, and again this reminder precisely because of COVID-19 could have positive ramifications for many years, not to mention those who will have been blessed by a church in their neighborhood they may not have had contact with before this particular moment of need.
With four kids in school (10th through 4th grade) and them not returning to the classroom for at least 4 weeks, our family life has already been profoundly impacted even at the front end of this pandemic. Being so early into it, for all the disruption of it, I still feel quite a bit of optimism about the impact of this on our family. If the forces we fight in our family life often feel centripetal (spinning us farther apart from each other), this season feels radically centrifugal (spinning us closer together and towards a common center).
With no illusions about the challenges of this season (which I’m guessing will last quite a while), I’m actually looking forward to several things at least:
- to more regularity in our family meals which have felt too irregular of late
- to being around and more available to the kids and simply being with them
- to the ways this will force us to discover more constructive entertainment options
- to the chances this will present of learning things together in a more focused fashion
- to the ways it will create more opportunities for family prayers, as it already has
- to the ways this will deepen our experience of ‘domestic church’
- to creating greater structures for our time and activities than we’ve ever had to create, and I think that might even positively shape the way we do family longer term
- to helping them take advantage of where they live
- and I can always hope that the kids will take this as an opportunity to take steps toward loving and caring for each other and increasing their kindness, simply because the alternative will be too impossible to bear.
I recognize this will be an unforgettable and likely unrepeatable season in the life of our family, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to deepen our family precisely because of it. I want to take full advantage of it and even steward it.
And I’m just speaking for one family!
Can you imagine if the Haley’s experience of deepening together as a family and learning to love each well in that hardest of settings is multiplied a million times over around our country and our world?
This could be a mighty redemption indeed.
For any person of faith, the disruptions to travel, social distancing, working from home, self-quarantine, and potential sheltering in place create the possibility to arrange our days for encounters with God and spiritual disciplines and formation that sometimes get crowded out by our normal lives. I plan on using the space created by various sorts of shutdowns to read more, pray more, write more, exercise more, and simply breathe more slowly.
I hope and will work towards taking advantage of this strange season to cultivate my intimacy with God, deepen in holiness, and improve myself.
Here again, I’m just speaking for me.
Can you imagine if my experience of deepening with God in this season is multiplied in individual men and women a billion times around our country and our world?
This also could also be a mighty redemption indeed – many more people empowered by God precisely because they’ve been forced to create the space to connect with him more deeply or maybe even for the first time.
For all of these possible redemptions, we don’t want to forget all those for whom their experience of this pandemic is not so optimistic or whose roads to navigate this are fraught with hardship and/or grief. So for them we pray, and if this becomes our experience of it, we’ll pray too.
Yet while we do and while we manage all that there is and will be to manage, we’ll not forget to hope, and rejoice that God loves to bring redemption because that’s just what he does. And God is very good at it, even in the time of the coronavirus.
On the journey,
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