Several weeks ago, when the coronavirus began its spread, social distancing became a thing. If you'll remember, the initial goal of social distancing was to "flatten the curve" in order to preserve health care resources. Epidemiologists, researchers and officials informed us that our health care system would be overwhelmed if everyone contracted this virus at the same time. Included in that effort was protection of the most vulnerable in our society. But somewhere along the way, the purpose of staying apart also became the preservation of my own health.
Now we have a new dilemma. It is a physical and emotional and spiritual dilemma. And much more personal. As socialization begins to slowly resume and we are no longer distancing solely for the purpose of the health care system, I have to assess my willingness to confront this virus personally. The curve is flatter, but coronavirus is still present. I get to walk out my front door - and face the possibility of acquiring covid-19. And, the truth is, if that happens, I don't know how my body will respond.
So, do I live in fear of this virus for a few more weeks... months... years? And if not the coronavirus, then what else am I afraid of? A car accident, heart attack, cancer? I'm not saying we should drive recklessly without a seatbelt or forego our medication or never wash our hands (mind you, I am a healthcare provider). However, sooner or later, I have to accept the fact that I will eventually die and it may happen today and it may happen because of any number of causes, including coronavirus.
But once I walk up to that fact and accept it and touch it and maybe even embrace it... then... then I can live. REALLY live.
In years past, the fear of disease and death interrupted so much for me. I liked the idea of heaven, but I didn't really want to leave this world to go there. However, after Katie died, through counseling and books and a lot of time with Jesus, I allowed myself to really confront death. Hers. Mine. Chad's. Even that of my other kids. And for me, death has lost a good bit of its sting. The fear of mortality does not have the power over me that it once did. Katie's death gave me a longing for Jesus that I never had before. For that I am grateful. Deeply grateful. And, while I enjoy my days here and all the activities and people that keep those days full, I don't want to stay on this earth any longer than is necessary.
While I may look the same on the outside, my internal perspective has changed quite a bit in recent years. For one thing, I understand that my life here is short, and I want to leverage the time I have toward what is truly important to me. I want to focus on deeper relationships. I want to really be present. I want to know when to speak up and when to shut up. I want to enjoy the activity and the quiet and know when to pursue each. I want to dance. And laugh. And sing out loud. I may not have another opportunity to enjoy this moment. And I want to embrace the life I have here.
But, to be honest, I would rather do all those things with Jesus than anyone here on this earth. And I'm so excited for that! I truly believe that life with God is just better. And I'm not afraid of the process or the timing to get there. In the meantime, however, I'll wash my hands to keep from spreading something I can't see. I'll wear my mask to protect you from what I might have. And I will keep doing all the things I can to enjoy the people around me. Because I am not going to let fear of anything keep me from living life.
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. - Philippians 1:21-24 (NLT)
Martin Luther, a theologian during the Reformation in the 1500s, also faced a deadly plague. The words he shared as guidance on how to live in the midst of that are quite applicable to our lives now:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air,
administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is
not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and
pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish
to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I
am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor
needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.
See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does
not tempt God.” (Volume 43, Pg. 132: Whether One Should Flee From A Deadly Plague
– To Rev. Dr. John Hess)
How do I live now... in a world with coronavirus? is not a simple question with an easy answer. But I am also not sure it is a different question than what we should ask every day. Based on what I know about this world and what I know about God, how do I live now?