As more time passes, more fear and anxiety seep in. New York is (once again) ground zero and word is that Chicago is not far behind. We are doing our part by staying home, keeping ourselves quarantined, and social distancing as a family. Limiting contact with the outside world will hopefully help the at-risk and vulnerable in our community and ease the strain on our local hospitals. But it’s frustrating and disheartening when we see people going about their daily lives like nothing at all is unusual. We are baffled by neighbors who have get-togethers or let their teenagers have parties because it’s just a few friends.
What are they doing? Don’t they know better? Don’t they see the sacrifice everyone else is making? Idiots. We say to no one in particular because there isn’t really anyone to say it to.
Yesterday Dear Husband and I were talking about all the ways the virus could make our family sick regardless of our precautions. I’m reminded of the 1956 si-fi movie Forbidden Planet in which an invisible monster terrorizes and kills the human inhabitants of the planet with no rhyme or reason. Even though they set up an electric fence around their compound to keep it out, it still attacks.
I won’t spoil the plot twist for you since it’s worth watching (what else do you have to do right now anyway?) but to say that they can’t control the invisible threat. Once they finally realize the source of the danger, only drastic measures will save those who are left (ahem, I’m looking at you economy. Sorry, but you’re going to have to take a big hit for the team).
So what’s the point? As much as I would like to say we have a handle on the situation, as much as it is in our human nature to try and control everything; so much is out of our control.
I can’t control who has handled or breathed on the loaf of Sara Lee wheat bread when it was put on the shelf at the grocery store. Maybe I can try and wipe down every grocery item that passes through my door but I can’t control the selfish impulse for people to buy up all the Clorox wipes instead of only buying what they need, leaving the selves empty and me clinging to my last Clorox wipe like a security blanket.
I can’t control the laissez faire attitude of others or their house parties or all the teenagers who are gathering at a friend’s house. If someone wants to believe conspiracies rather than medical professionals, I can’t do anything about that.
Knowing that I can’t control it if I or my family gets sick is, if I’m being honest, scary. It’s a harsh reminder that ultimately, we don’t have as much control over our lives as we would like to think we have. That’s an unsettling feeling.
So what do we do with the fear of the unknown and uncontrollable? For me, I have to let go of the things out of my control. If I cling to the uncontrollable, it will consume me. Instead, I cling to the knowledge that we are loved by something greater than our fears. I’ve dug my nails into the belief that we are not alone. I have to believe that we are not the smartest beings in this reality or the next. If there isn’t something bigger, grander, more compassionate, and generally better than us then we’re screwed. Because let’s face it, we’re all just a bunch of scared and selfish dumb dumbs.
So I have to look beyond the usual suspects for help in these bleak circumstances. Prayer is helpful but I don’t believe that I can pray the virus away or that God will magically make it all better. I don’t think God will make some people better while allowing others to suffer. I just don’t think that is how God works and I find greater peace in a God that suffers with us rather than causing or preventing harm.
Imagine the love a new mother has for her baby; ferocious yet tender. That possessive love times infinity is what I release my fear to. She calls us by name, she loves us in our suffering. She can’t make it all go away but she loves us through the pain.
In times like these God as a mother is what grounds me. When my boys were little and had a nightmare, I would rub their back in the middle of the night. I couldn’t make the bad thoughts go away but I could be by their side. When they fell and scraped their knee, I couldn’t take the sting away but I could offer comfort in my hugs and kisses. That type of love; the loving embrace of a mother is so much more reassuring to me.
A song our choir sings keeps running through my head. It is based on Isaiah 43:
Fear not, for I am with you. Fear not, for I am here.
Fear not for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name
and you are mine
Because you are precious in my sight
and I love you.
Comfort comes simply in the knowledge that I am loved. So much is out of my control, so much is uncertain but She calls my name and my initials are tattooed on her hand. She won’t make the danger go away but she will love me no matter what and can carry the burden of uncertainty for me.