What Makes Us Pause
"All of our problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room all alone."-Blaise Pascal
Today is, officially, the first day of Spring. Where I live it is also, officially, the first day of restaurant, gym and mall closures due to a virus that has made the whole world pause, and do what Christians often do in the Season of Lent: reflect on our lives and mortality.
Viruses are not new to our planet. The Coronavirus, COVID19, is new in that, up until now, no one has ever contracted it, and, so, we have no natural antibodies to combat it...yet...(but, we will).
What's, also, new is that no virus in the history of the world has been tracked and recorded and its numbers and deaths counted and broadcast 24-hours a day; or, as my husband, Michael, says 'stopping all other news in its wake, making everything else take a back seat to a tiny virus' that is:
...able to close whole factories in China (has that ever happened before?)
...stop the transport of goods between and within nations
...effect whole economies
...commandeer the attention of the world
...And, remind us, like Lent reminds us, that we are human and, therefore, fragile.
Lent began "Ash Wednesday" with the reminder "To dust we come, and to dust we return" and, if that was all there was to our story as human beings we would, in the words of the Apostle Paul: "be those most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15: 19)." But, thanks be to God, in Jesus Christ, death is not the end, Life is; and despite everything is blossoming all around us.
In this Season of Lent, I hope we will take this to heart and focus on these things. God is working out God's purposes and plans, "working," as Romans 8 tells us, "all things, together, for good." All things. Even this thing that nobody yet fully understands.
As we shelter indoors (and, I hope, you have a place to 'shelter indoors' because not everybody does), I hope it's a time to ponder our mortality and need for one another; and to pray.
Pray for those who labor in our communities and world (relying on their health to do so); medical professionals who stand on the front lines of viruses (putting themselves at risk to treat the ill); people who are afraid and anxious and feel alone.
Keep these and others in your prayers, and one another, too.
The churches in ABQ have largely closed in solidarity with the President's and Center for Disease Control's recommendations that small groups should, temporarily, disband to stop the spread of a new and tiny virus; and that's OK. We need to stop sometimes (and, sometimes, life makes us pause whether we want to or not) to re-member what matters most.
I hope this will be that kind of time for you.
I close with part of a poem I usually share in Lent entitled "For Jessica, My Daughter" by Mark Strand:
"Tonight I walked,
lost in my own meditation,
and was afraid,
not of the labyrinth
that I have made of love and self
but of the dark and faraway.
I walked, hearing the wind in the trees,
feeling the cold against my skin,
but what I dwelt on
were the stars blazing
in the immense arc of sky.
Jessica, it is so much easier
to think of our lives,
as we move under the brief luster of leaves,
loving what we have,
than to think of how it is
such small beings as we
travel in the dark
with no visible way
or end in sight.
Yet there were times I remember
under the same sky
...we were the children of stars
and our words were made of the same
dust that flames in space,
times when I could feel in the lightness of breath
the weight of a whole day
come to rest.
it is different.
Afraid of the dark
in which we drift or vanish altogether,
I imagine a light
that would not let us stray too far apart,
a secret moon or mirror,
a sheet of paper,
something you could carry
in the dark
when I am away.
Christ's peace be with you in this Lenten journey.