I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Not even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the sky was empty of planes and no one knew just what horror might come next. Back then, it took a few days for me to feel safe and appropriate about bringing my babies out for a walk, but that Friday was silent, I remember. As though even my usually chatty three-year old son and one-year old daughter in the double stroller knew something big had changed.
Back then the churches were full, with heartbroken and terrified people looking for meaning and community, but now they’ll be empty. Community, at least the in-person kind, is the thing that makes us feel less safe these days. And who knows if it would have been the churches they turned to anyway, nearly twenty years after both 9/11 and the priest sex abuse scandal rocked the foundations of institutions to which we gave our allegiance and our trust, the places we thought were for us.
Today, we still feel the reverberations of those quakes, in the church and the government. We rightly trust less in flowery words and promises and demand results. We’re skeptical and scared and there’s no authority left that can shore us up in these unpredictable days. So, in this time when schools and workplaces close and who knows what the economy will do and it feels like we’re waiting for the next shoe to drop, when it feels like we’re spinning out of control, where will we turn?
Some will turn to economic security. They’re the ones hoarding the toilet paper, who bought twenty loaves of bread and all the peanut butter they could find. Like the Saudi Crown Prince embroiled in an oil price war with Russia, for them this will be a time of competition to see who finally has enough, who will emerge on top, with all the stuff, because stuff = safety.
Some will turn to entertainment or numbing. They’re the ones binging The Crown or The Office on Netflix with a bag of Jax and a bowl of ice cream, treating this odd time in history like an extended snow day.
Some will obsess in fear. They’re checking twitter and the news far more than is helpful and they’re ramping up their online research about coronavirus. They know, for example, that ‘corona’ means ‘crown’ and why it was named in that way, they know what the virus looks like under a microscope, they know the conspiracy theories about spread, and the tracking around the world, and all of the conflicting information they hear makes it impossible for them to find the control they seek in the midst of chaos.
Some will look to something bigger than themselves. They’ll try to find meaning and peace in prayer/meditation or service or both. They’ll feel the very Lenten-ness of Lent as all of their activities are cancelled and they look around to see just what it is we should take from this very strange and scary time, and also what we should give.
So which am I? Some of all of it, I suspect. I did pick up a few extra cans of tuna and some frozen orange juice concentrate, plus cough medicine and other stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily buy, And I’m planning on making some progress on my friend Shawn’s list of film recommendations while my music classes are cancelled. For sure I’ve spent more time on Twitter and news sites than is healthy for me in the last few days. And yet, with the realization that life is/has fundamentally changed for at least a season, the place I want to put my trust and focus is in the only crown that matters, the kingship of a God who walked a broken human road and won victory over death, for me. His is the crown I want to look to, a crown of thorns and suffering, yes, but also of freedom. There’s more than this brokenness and fear we’re meeting in this present moment, much more on the other side of this unique opportunity to confront and clarify our beliefs and our priorities, and it’s in encounter with a living God. For every closing, there’s an opening, and that’s where I’m aiming my eyes.
If you’d like recommendations of books, music, and podcasts that might feed your spirit during this homebound time, please shoot me a message or let me know in the comments. Know of my prayers for you and yours. God bless you today, mind, body and spirit in the name of Jesus.