Words seem superfluous, unnecessary, and out of place – much like everything else right now. With what feels like a frozen clock and unmoving calendar, we have more time than ever to create and write and dream, but what is there to say? This is just an odd place to live, wanting nothing more than to grab coffee with a friend or drive north to hug mom, yet being prevented from doing both by an invisible, life-threatening bug. It’s an odd place to live in this close proximity to catastrophe and death, if not fearful for ourselves then fearful for those we love most. It’s an odd place to live, in this nearness of constant, persistent ache.
Maybe we have already been feeling, for some time now, the aches of our own suffering, the fear of death and dying, and the injustice of this system here and that one over there too. Yet this collective ache over one very present, very in-our-face threat is unfamiliar. A global pandemic walloped us all upside the head simultaneously, clobbering both the red and blue, white and brown, sick and well. We are all feeling it. And while it is likely hitting the vulnerable – physically, financially, spiritually, mentally – the hardest, there is no numbing or turning our heads on this one. We are in it, together, all of us.
How often, in our lifetimes, have we been able to process our griefs and laments in unison with the whole world? This isn’t another one of those moments where we look up from the bottom of the deep dark hole we’ve been sitting in and whisper, hello? is anyone else down here?, only to hear the taunting cackle of crickets. It’s not another attempt to hold space for a friend whose tears are mopping the kitchen floor, while we sit in helpless silence, unable to fully empathize for lack of shared experience. No, this is different. This awakening to a global pandemic is a unique moment in history where we can hop on Zoom or FaceTime and immediately empathize with the voiced fears of an uncertain present and future that are looming for us all. We can scroll through our Instagram feeds and find a sprinkle of widespread, stubborn, resilient creativity to cling to joy and gratitude in an otherwise dark and eerie time. Amidst these very tumultuous seas, so many of us are reinvigorating efforts to connect with family and friends when the barriers to being in the same room are more insurmountable than ever, and this – here and now – is a unique time of collective lamenting that I pray we never forget.
I pray we don’t forget the longing to be fully in each other’s presence, breaking bread and chorusing in laughter and accepting the fullness of our humanness. I pray we don’t forget the urgency with which we are stockpiling canned goods and toilet paper rolls, noticing maybe for the first time what a gift it is to provide for our family’s basic needs without fear. I pray we don’t forget the courageous fight for goodness, clinging to everyday gifts like sunshine kissing skin and grass tickling bare feet and smiles being exchanged with a stranger. I pray we don’t forget what it feels like to be walking through uncertainty together, as one people in our shared humanity, no one immune to the impact of an unruly virus. I pray we don’t forget this keen awareness of our frailty and collective suffering, nudging us back towards the breathtaking wholeness and peace that are found in Jesus. I pray we don’t forget.
For as long as we are here, without the insight or control over how long this might last, may we lean in. For those of of us who are unessential, may we lean into this slower pace and stillness, using it to pray and meditate and rest. For those who are essential, may you feel the support and gratitude of all of us standing behind and praying fervently for you. For all of us, may we let the excess fall away, the distractions that have kept us from each other for too long, and embrace the pieces of our lives that remain. May we care – truly, deeply, passionately care – about the fate and the livelihood and the wellbeing of others. May we release any bits of ourselves that are self-serving and acknowledge that we all belong to one another and that we all belong to Jesus. May we pray and intercede for our collective, global wholeness and restored peace, and may we be creative in our active participation to get us there. May we rest in the knowledge that we are in this together, and may we never forget.