As COVID-19 changes life as most of us know it, and “social distancing” becomes part of our daily vocabulary, the world is responding in telling ways. This is the time for us – especially as Christians – to spread love and acts of service. So how can we use this opportunity for good, instead of forgetting that God works all things together for good? How can we be good warriors instead of letting our good intentions make things worse?
Embrace the Bright Side
A quick scroll through social media or news outlets will remind us that we can always choose how to respond, and sometimes the small things make a huge impact. Business owners can choose to price gorge or give – selling four ounces of hand sanitizer for $400 or using beverage distilleries to make hand sanitizer at no profit. Church-goers can either lament that canceled gatherings are the devil’s work or get busy setting up a streaming service. Forced family time can be seen as an annoyance or an adventure. Those of us now working from home can either complain or put on the sweatpants we always wished we could wear to the office and get out the snacks our coworkers judge us for and appreciate the change. This is an opportunity to work, pray, learn, play and rest in new ways.
Put Others First (Really)
Selfishness and disregard for others can look like a lot of things, from hoarding toilet paper to insisting on spring break at the beach instead of staying home. That kind of selfishness is obvious.
The hard part is self-examining for selfishness that might look like love and service at first glance. Refusing to practice social distancing or isolation because we “love people” could actually be self-serving if it’s coming out of our need for physical interaction. Real love during this time is fighting for everyone’s best possible outcome. The desire to be with someone in person might result from love, but when physical presence can cause harm, true love will welcome social distancing. Try starting with the question “Is the way I want to show love really the best way to love right now?”
Like the expressions of love, some acts of “faith” and “courage” can do more harm right now than good. We need courage, but we don’t need people running out into the fray just to prove they’re not afraid. We don’t need acts of faith and love that are poorly executed or damaging to others. We don’t need stubbornness, we need strategy. If we say it’s about faith, then doesn’t it make sense to have faith in the new paths and opportunities presented to us? So much of real love and real sacrifice happens without praise and without social media shout outs. But that doesn’t mean your presence will go unnoticed.
Meet with the church elders online instead of insisting that in-person meetings display more faith. Light up someone’s room over a screen with an encouraging conversation. Throw birthday parties over FaceTime. Stay at home. Don’t play the martyr. Call another parent and brainstorm activities for your kids. Pray with your prayer group over Skype. Meet with your mentor online. Have church with your aunt who lives alone (and doesn’t have a computer) over the phone by singing and praying and reading the Bible together. FaceTime with your family across town over dinner instead of insisting on driving and eating with them as you normally would. Pick “coronavirus buddies” and check in with them every day. We don’t have to stop but we do need to adapt.
Believe in a Creative God
Kindness, selfless love and courage are exactly what we need right now. But we need creativity and willingness to adapt too. And that’s the part that many Christians get a little hung up on. This “shutdown” doesn’t mean you have to stop loving and serving. It just means you might have to change the way you love and serve. What can we give during this time? We can give phone calls to the lonely. We can give physical space to those with weak immune systems. We can drop off groceries at someone’s door. We can use the time we’d normally be commuting to have a coffee date with whoever we live with. We’re not being called to push on brashly and conquer this virus by pretending it doesn’t exist. I believe we’re being called to do something utterly more beautiful – and yes more difficult, for those of you looking for a challenge – to adapt and innovate with whimsy and open minds. This is one huge world-wide opportunity to be creative.
Creativity is one of those less-talked about traits of God. We seem to prefer the faithfulness and providence of God that we can call on to get us through anything or shield us from any harm. But God’s first act on and to this earth was creativity. In the beginning, he invented – transforming the void into terrain and sky. Molding the hovering waters into oceans. Turning dust into humanity. And when sin entered the world, he kept creating and shook the desperation of the way things were into redemption. And He continues to do that – faithfully, without missing a beat.
We need love. But we need wise, creative, innovative love. We need warriors. But we need warriors who practice quiet, steady strength. The real warriors, in this case, will do what is more simple but perhaps more difficult. They will leave the house as little as possible. They will protect others by protecting themselves. They will not seek glory by “risking it all,” but rather respond with quiet, steady strength. They will be okay with missing out on some opportunities and welcoming in others.
Social distancing is going to require a lot of people to be creative as they practice community, love and faith. Let’s remember it’s not all about us. It’s not about how invincible or unafraid we think we are. It’s not about how much we like our normal lifestyle. It’s not about the faith we’re used to. It’s about seeing the Church as a body and not a building. It’s about loving others, as uncomfortable, awkward and unconventional as it might feel. It’s about keeping others healthy and alive. Yes, it’s about letting love conquer all, but this kind of fight requires warriors who are willing to be different. To thrive in a time like this, we need warriors who can fight to the end and celebrate the victory, not warriors who throw themselves into the first opportunity to seem brave or selfless. We must focus on the nature of love, not the way we normally show it. We must learn to love others in new (and maybe weird) but powerful ways.
After all, this is a time for us all to grow – not just as a community but also personally. Maybe that canceled vacation can turn into a spiritual retreat. Maybe this is the time for you to connect with and worship God in new ways. What can you and God accomplish together that is unique to this time? Ask what He wants you to do and learn during this time. Maybe it all starts with you sitting inside with nowhere to go. Maybe that’s the way to stay well that we’ve been needing all along.
So, social distancing warriors: keep fighting and loving …literally like you’ve never done before.