How Long? Seriously, How Long?
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
It’s astounding how rapidly things have shifted in a matter of a couple weeks! I had to make a Coronavirus Calendar just to track highlights. It’s amazing how a couple of days can easily run into a week, and it gets confusing trying to recall what happened when and in what order? It appears the majority around these parts quickly made the shift into “hunker down” mode before the elected officials officially ordered it. I had to chuckle agreeably with one mommy blogger who quipped, “It’s amazing how fast our society went from ‘You do you! You are the boss of your life!’ to ‘You have a moral responsibility to love your neighbor by abiding by these rigid rules.’” That simple observation demonstrates how everyone believes it’s acceptable to impose moral absolutes; the only question being whose morals?
At the time of this writing it’s the first half of the last full week of March 2020 and the nation (even the world!) is in the middle of Coronavirus Chaos. The bug is an ugly one, to be sure! But the reaction to the ugly bug is far uglier. Idaho pastor, Doug Wilson, recently wrote in his blog that in times of crisis people run to their gods. Currently, we are in the earliest stages of the reaction and most people have hurried into isolation the same way one might hurry to the basement at the threat of a tornado—find the safest place possible, then ride out the storm. Thing is, with a mysterious virus (the “I could have it,” “I could pass it,” and “I could die from it” anxiety) and the spate of yellow journalism, we have a fertile seedbed for what may become an interminably long isolation. As I said Sunday at church, sooner or later the groundhog comes out of his hole. So also, will everyone reading this. How long are you willing to wait and for what reason will you finally poke your nose out? Our true “gods” will become evident. If not at first, eventually.
The two most elusive terms that each person is defining a little differently right now are “essential” and “safe.” Most would say that going to the grocery store for food is essential and that to do so safely you could select precautions such as time of day, wearing rubber gloves, wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer, etc. Keep in mind that “Safe” is much more of a feeling than an objective reality. It’s also very interesting how different people define “essential.” The politicians currently running for office think campaign work is essential so they implement safe practices for their staff and carry on the work of getting themselves elected/reelected. And, the news journalists and politicians can’t go on air without being coifed so the hairdresser and make-up artists are superty-duperty essential. And, toilet paper! It would seem that our world deems that most essential! So then, depending on personal opinions or how one wants to spin reality, anything could be “essential.”
In the beginning, “essential” to the masses are things like health care, food, and immediate family—things without which we’re not willing to live. As time drags along, our gods will manifest and people will take risks to worship that which matters most; that for which they’d rather risk death than live without. My question is, how long? How long before the things we quickly jettisoned prove to be things we’d rather not live without. Visiting and hugging the grandkids? Getting that massage? Hosting a get-together with “just a few symptom-free friends” out on the pontoon? Going to Meijer/Walmart to “shop” when you’re really just getting out of the house? For me, there is no meaningful life apart from God and his people. “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. Apart from you I have no good thing.’ As for the saints . . . they are the glorious ones in whom I delight,” (Ps. 16:2-3). What if my definition of “essential” doesn’t match the politicians’ definition? My faith and my faith community are something I’m not interested in living without. Virtual gatherings just don’t cut it. I can live without dining out. I can make it okay without Disney World or Cedar Point. I can flourish if I were to never go to a museum for the rest of my life. But I will chronically begin wasting away without that which I—only I and no one else—deem “essential.” I need to be with, pray with, fellowship with, worship with, serve with others. What are you simply unwilling to live without and how long before you say “Oh well, it’s worth the risk?”