The other day I was on a walk with the sole purpose in mind to deliver a few greetings to friends who live in the neighborhood. The contents of my pockets included: a card for a neighbor who encourages me in my writing, a cassette tape from my youth to another friend who shares the same birth year as me, and a note of congratulations for a friend on a significant anniversary.
I underestimated the rain, and wound up getting a bit wet. As I walked through the alleys between my friends’ houses and my own, I watched rivulets form; tiny rivers and tributaries running through the cracks in the pavement. I had this thought that may seem a bit scandalous, but I’m going to say it anyway: the biblical flood was meant to cleanse us; could this pandemic season be redemptive, too?
I know that there are faults in this hypothesis. Some haven’t even had the chance to contemplate coronavirus because before there was even one second pause for reflection, it had wreaked havoc on their health and economic stability. But for others of us, it put our idols in front of our faces.
I’ll pick on myself a moment: I spend too much money on unnecessary stuff.
It turns out, I can prepare my own food, brew my own coffee, and redirect impulsive purchases that I laugh off as “retail (or re-sale, in my case) therapy” towards prayer, neighborliness, compassion. This season has brought unexpected gifts to us in the form of our children being closer, our son learning to ride a bike – no training wheels. We regularly “check in” with friends and family on Zoom in ways we weren’t so consistent about before.
I am reminded that not everyone is on this same “boat,” though we all weather the storm of COVID-19. But the vulnerability we share might inspire some Christian love; compassion toward neighbor and brothers and sisters in Christ. Because while pandemic times may have suspended aimless gallivanting around the city just because we can, it has put our neighbors right in front of us on a regular basis (for better or worse) to check in, to know, to join in life together in an ecosystem made particular by zip codes.
I’m not arguing that God sent coronavirus to judge humanity. (You can jump to that if you like.) But maybe God who is able to make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) is using this crisis to help us simplify our desires and our rituals of love and worship. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an opportunity here – to turn to the Lord instead of our own inner pep talk. We live in a world that tells us daily “you got this,” “be anything you want,” “you can do anything you set your mind to,” but a world in crisis reminds us that the freedom we have is in our God who strengthens us.