What Happens in Six Months (Jeff Shankle)

What Happens in Six Months (Jeff Shankle) April 7, 2020

Well friends, I’ve got a post that made me stop and pause …especially in such topsy-turvy, upside-down times like we find ourselves in now. What would it look like instead to stop and listen for just a second, through the barrage of noise that bombards us right now? My buddy Jeff Shankle has some raw thoughts for us, so y’all, pull up a chair and enjoy. 

100,000.  200,000.  Less than SARS or more than H1N1.  In about 6 months (or so it seems) we’ll have a better sense of what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to us.  That is when we will find out if this pandemic can actually “bring us together” as we so often say hardship does.

Could this be the thing that brings an increasingly siloed and polarized society together?

For the past few weeks, you are probably seeing the same sorts of social media hot takes that I am.  Some of my friends have dismissed this pandemic questioning the orders from health and government officials.  Others have doubled down with name calling and shaming those who, they believe, aren’t taking this seriously enough.

By this time next year one of those sides will feel vindicated.  That is when we will find out if all those hot takes, all those links on their wall, all those emoji riddled comments, all those reposts and retweets, ALL THOSE CAPITAL LETTERS, were born out of an authentic love for others or if they were just another attention grabbing exercise in self-affirmation.

“Are you happy now?”  Can you see that question coming?  But really, that is a question that doesn’t often bear real openness.  Thousands and thousands of people have lost their lives and some of us will double down on the harshness of our faceless posts.  We will shame others and for what?

“See, you always buy this nonsense!”  The curve of loss turns out to be better than we could’ve expected.  Rather than simply celebrating, some of us will point the finger back at the “doomsayers” mocking their concern.  We will shame others and for what?

Who will deliver dignity and empathy to the other?

No matter what happens many of us will feel, not only the weight of this pandemic, but the embarrassment of our public profile.  What we need in those cases isn’t someone who will continue to point fingers at us.  Most people will politely say nothing.  I don’t think that is helpful either.

What we need are people willing to listen and instill a sense of dignity in us even though we’ve been a part of a wrong-sided hype machine.

Who will we listen to in 6 months?  What will we learn?

Will we actively engage the same people we were fighting with months ago?  Maybe we find common ground on things like economic hardship, family photos, fantasy football or who gets cast in the upcoming Tiger King movie?

What will we learn from our friends and family who have different perspectives than our own?  How will we find inspiration in their words and lives?

We know from the work of social psychologists that we would rather be wrong with friends than right without them.  Well, some of us are about to be wrong.  So, for whoever is “right” about this, how will we deepen our friendships with those who are wrong?  Will we listen to their story and opinions?  Will we learn something from them?  Or will we give into our most basic evolutionary impulses?

The Apostle Paul, of New Testament Christianity fame, may have had something to say about this when he said,

I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.

-1 Corinthians 9:22b

Imagine for a moment if you became more like those whose lives or worldviews are so different from your own.  Imagine for a moment if we confronted our new reality with a new sense of curiosity and openness to others we just threw the [angry emoticons] at.

We all need a sense of dignity regardless of how “right” we are.  Pointing fingers and casting aspersions is no way to give it.  It has been noted that this virus doesn’t care about your political affiliations, geography, or wealth.  It only cares if you’re human really.  Hmm…

Maybe we will take a lesson from the COVD-19 pandemic.  Maybe we will become closer.  Maybe we will find healing not only for our bodies but also healing for our broken hearts.

Jeff is a youth pastor of 20+ years who guests writing, teaching, preaching and consults and coaches.  He’s mostly known as possibly the only person to guest lecture at Liberty University while launching the first interfaith youth group meeting where he lives in Marin county.  He has an active online presence and can be found on most of the socials via @jbshankle. 

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