Friday, April 24, 2020

What I Didn't Learn on Lockdown

We're spending a lot of time inside the Other Adventist Home these days. Like most in the US, our area is under a stay-at-home order for the foreseeable future, hoping to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The change is admittedly surreal.

I have gone from shopping for groceries to foraging for them. Since the store shelves are unpredictable, I have a mental list of items I look for first—apples, frozen broccoli, favorite cereals, and coffee creamer. The lack of flour would be more painful if there were extra time to bake. The toilet paper is always out, but my bff in Idaho sent us some in a care package, so we're good for now.

The stress is not about finding food anymore. It's about seeing the changes happen week-to-week—acrylic shields to protect checkers, one-way aisles, often blocked by people in lines for the check-out trying to keep 6 feet apart. It's not that I begrudge the caution. But they point out just how little power we have to protect ourselves. I never expected a grocery trip to undo me. I say a quiet prayer for the cashiers as I check out.

At home, things are more normal. We didn't go out much anyway. It's cramped, of course. My usual work time is suffocating under the noise and chaos of the kids being at home. My husband and I trade days going to the office in the morning, and staying home to guide the kids through their schoolwork. I'm not getting a lot done (plus, it's super weird to do my lectures on video), but the extra family time isn't bad. I feel a little cheated that I don't have extra time to read books or take those virtual museum tours being given free online, but at least we have jobs. We're taking walks in the woods every day. I told the kids I was making them do it for their lungs, but really it's about being with them.

I've struggled over how I can help. My local hospital hasn't asked for homemade masks, but the kids did make cards for the staff. There are plenty of places to give money, and we've found a few local businesses we can patronize online. It all feels like so little. So I pray.

Every night, when the kids are in bed, we open YouTube and watch the news. I know some don't. It can be stressful. But for me, I want to stay in touch with this story we're in the middle of. Like any other story, I need to see what happens next. And I pray, while I watch. I pray for the millions of people who, unlike me, are carrying the weight of this pandemic. Those who are sick, those who are in constant danger trying to save lives, or to keep a paycheck coming, providing an essential service. I grieve, and I pray. 

I pray for unknown people on Twitter, trying to get one last conversation with a parent before they go on a ventilator. I pray for medical workers who are struggling to try something new to save their patients, or overwhelmed by the many they can't save. Every single photo of family members touching hands through a glass window because they can't be together, undoes me. I grieve for them. And I pray.

And this is where I try to say something wise, because that's usually my job here—look at life, and talk about God. There ought to be lessons—deep spiritual meaning in the discipline of staying indoors, the simple gift of supporting one another from a distance, even the hope of the Second Coming waiting around the corner of this calamity. But I can't offer any today. There's no take-away lesson I can suggest that won't be trite. There's no theology that can make this scale of suffering make sense. I have no “silver lining” I can say is worth those lives lost.

I'm sorry, friends. I have nothing for you but my prayers. I can't explain God's role in this, but I still believe he's listening. I believe he's still here, and he still hears. It's not much of a theology. It isn't eloquent or wise, but it's something to hold on to. It's what I'm holding on to.

If you need something to hold on to, I'm willing to share. Maybe you're one of the many who don't have my privilege—you're sick, or might lose someone, or can't stay at home. Maybe you're having a harder time with the changed world we live in. Maybe you're wrestling to find a theology that can encompasses all of this. I can't fix any of it.

But I will pray for you. I promise you that. And you can, too, because I promise he's listening.

And when we do come out of the Other Adventist Home, whatever world we walk out into, I believe he'll still be in it. That will have to be enough.