I’ve been mulling the question at the end of Headmaster Rob Spykstra’s blog post: How is God using the virus to shape your soul? That question is a disruptive challenge. As Christians we can say, “we’ll grow through this” instead of chanting with everyone else “we’ll get through this.”
Last week, a Morning Star mom posted a list of questions on Facebook to ask yourself each day of quarantine. A couple of them were goal-oriented and reminders of necessary daily needs like exercise. But sprinkled in the list were several related to Rob’s question:
What am I grateful for today? What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today? What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
These kinds of questions don’t have yes or no answers. You cannot check a box for them while downing your third cup of coffee and checking if the glue is dry on a cut-and-paste worksheet. These are telos questions; inquiries about the ends toward which we are striving. Why are we here? What are we made for? To whom do we direct our loose sense of “gratitude”? Christians believe God created us in his image, for his purposes, in his place, and that he is making new things possible through this difficult season.
So here’s another quarantine question: What neighboring does quarantine make possible today?
I went for a walk with my neighbor in mid-afternoon, on Monday. She walked in the street, I took the sidewalk. We walked apart, together, in a big loop through the subdivision she’s called home for longer than I have. Many neighbors greeted us from their driveways and lawns, bouncing basketballs, scrawling with chalk, picking up branches and leaves. People were home.
More moments of possibility: Soup left on a nearby doorstep, its Pyrex container returned with cake inside. Text messages about cleaning wipes from an asthmatic neighbor. Swapping VHS tapes for a bag of beads. (Quarantine question #347: If I have a VCR does that disqualify me from being a millennial?) Playing piano with the blinds open, hearts posted in the front window.
Nurses and cashiers and doctors and custodians live with heightened awareness of exposure to coronavirus. Those of us huddled at home live with heightened awareness of disrupted routines and missed paychecks and whether relatives have the care they need. These are all real concerns, and God sees them.
When our instinct is to focus “inside” on our family’s schedule or daily checklist, may God give us eyes to see who is just beyond our front doors. In the time of coronavirus, these neighbors are home. Maybe we can negotiate, mid-stride, who will take the sidewalk and who will take the street.