The other day in a conversation with a friend in a video chat (as are all conversations these days it seems), both of us were wrestling with the incomprehensible reality of a world mostly shut down and paused, discussing how this moment illumines the lie that most of us lived each and every day prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, that we were in any way in control of our lives or the world around us. As the pandemic has brought our institutions and governments and economies grinding to a halt, each of us is facing the same truth that anyone facing a chronic illness, a layoff, an addiction, or a sudden death of a loved one has already had to accept – we are not in control. And, like anyone who has faced the immovable and immutable rock of reality, the obstacle blocking the path to self-actualization and all the plans we’ve made, there is a process of reconciling what is with what we wanted. What are we to do in moments like this, when life takes an unexpected and unwanted detour, when our plans have to be shelved, when the world seems a bit more fearsome, and the future a little murkier? Annie Dillard seems to be able more than most authors to capture the simplest and most obvious truths in ways that are simultaneously poetic and poignant. As I reflected on my conversation with my friend and all of these truths, I found resonances with something she wrote in her profound book, For the Time Being (1999). In it she says,
“You cannot mend the chromosome, quell the earthquake, or stanch the flood. You cannot atone for the dead tyrants’ murders and you alone cannot stop living tyrants. As Martin Buber saw it, the world of ordinary days ‘affords’ us that precise association with god that redeems both us and our speck of world. God entrusts and allots to everyone an area to redeem: this creased and feeble life, ‘the world in which you live, just as it is, and not otherwise.’”
As Bishop Mariann Budde preached yesterday in her wonderful homily from the National Cathedral, we were created “for the living of these days”. There is a sense in which, welcome or not, we have been given care and trust of “our speck of world”. As I write this, I am hunkered in my wife’s home office, far up in the eaves of our home, away from the classroom/diningroom and the homey chaos of four other humans (and one dog) bumping up against one another and living shoulder to shoulder in our small corner of the world. This pandemic has shrunk the world for many of us. And it has shown us, living in these days, what is truly within our grasp. It has also opened our eyes to what is true and urgent and most important. It has opened my eyes, at least, to what part I can play in redeeming “this creased and feeble life”.
Something the youth of the Diocese of North Carolina created and which I shared last week on our Facebook Page speaks to the question of how we can be and what we can do in the living of these days. I commend these questions to each of you:
Daily Quarantine Questions
- What am I GRATEFUL for today?
- Who am I CHECKING IN ON or CONNECTING WITH today?
- What expectations of “normal” am I LETTING GO OF today?
- How am I GETTING OUTSIDE today?
- How am I MOVING MY BODY today?
- What BEAUTY am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
I think these are wonderful questions to deepen the larger question of what can I do in my corner of the world for the living of these days. How can I invite God’s presence, guidance, and strength to be who God created me to be?
Know that your faith community at Saint John’s is with you in this time of isolation and physical distancing. We are praying with you. We love you. Please let us know how we can be supporting you.
I’ll see you online and in worship!