Why slowing down is important for our spirits
This COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting — and tiring. I haven’t been able to sleep these last several weeks. My heart races wildly whenever I close my eyes. My mom, trying to sound helpful while failing to mask her concern, says it could be panic attacks. She’s probably right. Anxious thoughts or not, I should see a doctor.
I mentioned my anxiety to a friend the other day, lamenting how this virus infects every part of our lives — not just our bodies, but our spirits, souls, our very being. It’s running rampant, I said, because it has unleashed a slew of tough questions that were begging to be answered — or at least nudging to be acknowledged — for far too long.
Questions of what is right and what is wrong that we have brushed aside because, well, because our lives were comfortable. Our investments were doing well and, praise God, there was toilet paper for everyone. When the real world dared to creep into our conscience with whispers about homelessness, food insecurity and how many Americans were teetering on the brink of poverty, we would give ourselves this wimpy reassurance: “Who am I to make a difference?” And on with our lives we would go.
We are not in this together
The thing is, we can’t continue with our lives as they were because the pandemic is smacking us in the face with the question, “What is God asking of us?” Because no matter how much we would like to believe all those utopian Facebook messages that “we are in this together” the truth is, we are not.
My husband is a truckdriver who shakes his head at all those sharing with me the struggle to work from home, noting that to do so is a privilege that blue collar workers like him do not have. He has to contend with the lack of safety precautions at his job — no hand sanitizer available, no gloves or masks either. While he comes home every night, he still drives long distances daily and has to risk stopping at gas stations to use restrooms. He can’t shelter in place. It’s not an option for him. A few weeks ago, he wondered out loud why five-star hotels in Vegas were not opening their luxury rooms to the homeless who were sleeping in the very parking lots of these hotels?
“Why couldn’t empty rooms be filled with those who need a place to shelter in a time of sheltering?” he asked. Good question.
Then then there was a friend who emailed me up in arms after reading about farmers dumping milk. Being I’m a rural pastor, she probably thought I had the answer to why that was being done rather than giving the milk to the hungry. My husband the truck driver, who by the way delivers feed to farmers in our rural area, explained to me that the situation was not that simple. There are many steps in the collection, processing and bottling of milk that need to be considered. Basically, the short answer is that you can’t get milk to others if there is a slow down or shut down in the supply chain. It seems our heighted state of anxiety has also shortened our tempers, leading us to judge quickly without gathering all the facts. I know I have been guilty of this one too many times these last few weeks.
Still, the questions persist and no matter the topic, they all succeed at one thing. They make the line between the haves and have nots ever more visible. And I am finding myself overwhelmed by the daily torrent of hard questions. Questions needing immediate answers without the luxury of processing first and adjusting to the new world we are being hurled into — a world we are clueless about.
Each day is uncertain. Each day is a struggle. And, on the days I feel my fear finally slipping away and see my faith peeking hesitantly around the dreaded COVID-19 corner, I get slammed with a new reality in this new world. The latest is the growing demand for things to get back to “normal.” People are insisting on it, fighting for it, protesting over it. Perhaps they want that line between the haves and have nots to fade from their sight. I don’t blame them. It’s not pretty when that line becomes clear. It’s even worse when you finally realize, it’s always been there.
Yet I wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to really be changed by this pandemic? To not rush so quickly back to what was, but rather trust God’s what can be? To finally see the line that separates so many of us and to decide that, yes, you as one person, can make a difference?
Perhaps then anxiety will give way to a creative hope that truly moves us into God’s new reality.