Updated: May 5
It has been over a month, nearly two months actually since I was living my "normal life". My office had a health scare fairly early on in the COVID19 process, and we went into mandatory work-from-home mode a bit earlier than some. It has been over a month since I've sat in a restaurant, over a month since I felt the smooth glide of ice skate blades on the ice under my feet, over a month since I hugged a friend, and over a month since I went shopping at our local mall.
I am not the only one struggling with the changes that have taken place in my comfy cozy world. My neighbors have been arguing a lot more than they used to. Amazon shipping is so delayed that items I order today won't be here until next month. The grocery store is filled with masked faces, nervous glances, and empty aisles. The top five headlines continue to include the words, "pandemic" or "global crisis" or "economic disaster".
Yesterday I posted on my Instagram story asking what people felt was the hardest part of Quarantine. I've included a summary of some of their answers:
Not being around my friends
Not being able to teach my students
Working in a hospital where nurses now have a stigma
Not being able to give hugs
Not being able to graduate with my high school class
Not being able to attend church
Having to rely on Zoom to see anyone
Yes, there is no denying it. We are all struggling right now.
I've thought a lot about my emotions and the edginess I am now feeling as I sulk around in my tiny home. I wrestle with understanding what to do with the anger, sadness, and frustration that we are all dealing with. I asked God to reveal to me what I can learn from this season of my life. I asked him to help me be accepting of the fact that things may not go "back to normal". In fact, it is nearly impossible for things to be as they were.
Through all of this, I have caught myself trying to live in the future. I encourage myself with thoughts of when my favorite restaurant offers dine-in again or when the skating rink is re-opened. I think many of us are looking to next week, next month, and next year even when this can just "all be behind us". Today I realized that many people in the world don't have such a luxury. Actually, for many people in the world, our temporary inconvenience is their lifetime reality. Allow me to shed some light on the points my social media friends made above...
Many people never feel like they have any friends to see. 21% of the United States population claims they have no friends. 43% feel that their relationships are only superficial.
Teachers in Tanzania often cannot see or properly accommodate all of their students. The teacher to student ratio there is 1 teacher for every 218 children.
In Africa, certain tribes do not respect any sort of healthcare professional, fearing that the medical worker has come to sterilize the land. Instead, they rely on the local "Bush Doctor" whose methods often fall short and are rooted in fables.
In Morroco and other Muslim countries, it is not ever appropriate to openly give hugs in public.
In South Sudan, not only do students not graduate any sort of "high school" but the literacy rate is only 27%.
In China, the government is so corrupt that Christians dare not meet in public churches for fear of being reported and persecuted.
In Iraq, the chances of seeing or communicating with anyone outside of the immediate community must rely entirely on the web or phone access- which is limited or non-existent.
I used to think that people "back in the day" had it much worse than we do now. I used to assume there were more wars, more crimes, more illnesses, and more deaths then, rather than now. It isn't true. The world has increasingly become more dangerous and unjust despite the luxuries I am experiencing in my own journey. Although we consider ourselves more knowledgeable and more equipped than ever before, we still fall short. This can be scary, but it can also remind us that the world is not going to survive... it is going to end. We are so spoiled; it is obvious that we are ridiculously out of touch with reality when we start complaining about being forced to stay in our beautiful, well-furnished, and fully stocked homes. It is a delusion in a sense to call that hard. How ridiculously privileged we are!
Don't get me wrong- I know our suffering is real. I am not making these points to belittle the feelings of the people who gave me their feedback nor am I denying that each person's pain is relevant to their own "normal". I am absolutely suffering right along with my peers. But it would be a wasted opportunity for us not to acknowledge what is going on in the rest of the world outside of our safe little bubbles. If nothing else it is time for us to re-evaluate what we can do, no matter how small or how great, to assist or do something for other people.
Service and humility are at the core of what being a follower of Jesus is. So often we forget what genuine service and self-sacrifice look like. We toss some money at a worthy cause and check the box in our heads that says "humanitarian". We drop off a bag of clothes we decided aren't stylish enough for our taste at GoodWill and give ourselves a pat on the back. "Wow, I am such a good citizen!" But the truth is those outdated shirts and shoes were going in the trash anyway. No, it isn't enough...at least not for me. I want to do more.
It is tempting to read a post like this and say, "Yes! I totally agree! As soon as quarantine is over I will get right on that!" or maybe, "As soon as I get my job back, I'll financially commit to something", or even, "As soon as church is back in session I will gather a group of volunteers."
Jesus is calling us to act now.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 1:45
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:10
"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Give the money now. Share your groceries now. Donate your nicest items instead of your ugliest. It is not my place to tell you what your acts of service should be- these are merely suggestions. I believe the Holy Spirit will place on your heart what you should do or give. Instead of viewing this catastrophe as a huge inconvenience, let's think of it as a blessing- a wake-up call to bring us closer to the character of Christ. I realize it isn't easy, but maybe it will help make your time at home seem a little more purposeful- a bit more worth it. There is nothing like a new perspective to change your life.
Looking for a way to give? Here are some of my personal favorite options: