I have no medical assessments or advice to share.
I’m a doctor, Jim, but not that kind.
While some may be going stir-crazy, others suffer greatly and still others are working hard to flatten the curve. For my part, I will only ask a few questions for contemplation. Without minimizing how harsh this storm is—medically and financially—I’m pondering what social and spiritual fabric we might weave from the silver lining around these dark clouds.
WHICH NEW WAYS OF BEING COULD BECOME PERMANENT CORRECTIONS?
Covid-19 has generated a wide array of involuntary responses and reactions. These range from panic to courage, hoarding to sharing, alienation to creative community. How has it changed your lifestyle? How has your way of being undergone a reset in a healthier direction? Might these new habits be an invitation for a permanent course correction?
For example, I had created a situation for myself in which I had chronically overscheduled my 2020 calendar. I thought I could get away with it because I expected a lot of my trips to include Eden. But when she had to cancel for health reasons, I found myself dreading the time away and apart. It felt like a “heavy yoke”—a signal that Christ had not given it to me. It was self-imposed. But why? What fears or dysfunctions were behind squeezing my life too tightly?
But now, with all my gigs canceled until at least June, I feel a sigh of relief. I’m still working in other ways, but I wonder how that sigh is an invitation. Instead of just coping with this temporary glitch in the matrix, I wonder if we could take advantage of this involuntary reset to discover new and healthier practices that we’d do well to embrace going forward. For example
HAS THE EMBODIMENT OF ISOLATION IN A VIRUS WOKEN US TO RESIST IT?
One of the great complaints about self-quarantine is the way it can make us feel isolated. The truth is that the exodus from community into radical individualism was already killing us. My godfather says that the modern psychological term for “hell” is alienation. And the problem was that despite the anxiety and despair it created, I saw very little resistance to it.
But now that it’s embodied in this virus, we can watch and even measure how contagious and deadly it is. This is not a metaphor. I have not been tested and have no symptoms, yet in my personal quarantine, I’m now very mindful of the need to resist the alienation that was already a pandemic. Covid-19 has mobilized us to final say NO. Will we continue to fight the alienation after this current tide has receded? How so? I’m seeing purposeful acts of connection and communion that I hope will become part of this reset.
WILL OUR DIGITAL CONNECTIONS TURN US BACK TO TOUCH?
The inability to meet face-to-face has taught us remote workarounds in our classrooms, our workplaces, our clinics and our fellowships. We’ve discovered through technology Christ’s miraculous ability to work and heal and deliver even from a distance. I mean this quite literally. And I’m very grateful for online classroom experiences. And who doesn’t love working from home in their pajamas?
That said, I am praying that we also feel the lack. While this may be an exponential leap forward for the digital revolution, let’s remember that the Word became flesh. Flesh. Touch. And he’s in the midst of two or three gathered. Hand-in-hand prayer circles. Laying on of hands to heal. Arms around shoulders to encourage. The warm embrace of comfort. The Maori people sharing breath, foreheads and noses touching. Eskimo kisses. The apostolic holy kiss or passing the peace. Wm. Paul Young or Eden Jersak’s healing hugs.
I pray that we push back hard at the limitations of social media pseudo-connection (as helpful as it can be) and fight for a fleshy faith once again. May we be recharged in our desire to meet around a shared meal, drink from a common cup, puff the same cigar. And may we forever think that anything less is not normal, however viral.
HAVE WE FOUND OUR WAY BACK TO CREATION?
I saw a meme that showed “before and during quarantine.” Before the quarantine, some lone dude was huddled alone in his home, transfixed by his smartphone. During quarantine, the meme showed a collage of people riding their bikes, walking on nature trails, enjoying a calm beachfront. And this wasn’t just in the fantasyland of meme-world. My friend Giovanna described exactly this scene while out and about today. And I realized (as I gazed into my iPhone) that quarantine has given us two great gifts:
It has given the world of nature a little breathing space from us. I read about emission rates dropping in Northern Italy as the streets are less clogged and clear water flowing in the canals of Venice, inviting dolphins into the city. Fun. And temporary. Horrendous for the oil industry (another of our addictions). But at least the biosphere got to come up for a gulp of air.
But also, quarantine has called us to lift our eyes up from our glowing little screens and invite us outside. In other words, even before we can safely let down the walls of our social distancing, we can still experience quarantine as spiritual solitude rather than soul-sucking isolation. I know someone in mandatory isolation right now… but they realized that weather permitting, they can spend their time in the forest rather than in the attic. Check with medical professionals but I am quite sure the “don’t go out” order needn’t literally mean “stay in your cell.”
Speaking of which, I hear children outside. Time for my prayer walk. It’s been too long.