By Ruth Bearden
I keep thinking we’ll wake up, don’t you? That the whole COVID-19, coronavirus, social distancing, shelter-in-place thing was just a really long, strange dream, right? Tomorrow we’ll wake up to our old lives. Anybody else?
The immediate reactions we all felt when this began – the denial, the panic, and the shellshock have given way to the somewhat uncomfortable reality of figuring out how we might do this for an extended period of time. What we anticipated was a short sprint has become a marathon, and we’re getting tired. Now, the experts tell us this week may be the worst of it – right here in the middle of Holy Week. Somehow, the walk to the cross has never seemed more real than it does this year.
Just six short weeks ago, most of us were going about our normal lives. Many of us began the season of lent on Ash Wednesday, a somber time of preparation and reflection for Easter. I remember sitting alone in our church’s Ash Wednesday service that evening as Rob was traveling on business. As the church pews filled, I texted a friend who was meeting me there to let her know where I was sitting. I told her I was the one sitting all alone with the big “L” on my forehead. She jokingly told me to tell everyone that I had given up friends for Lent. How did she know?
Who knew this season of Lent would call for giving up so much? You’ve probably seen the memes on social media calling it the “Lentiest Lent Ever.” Doesn’t that just hit the nail on the head? Will we ever under-appreciate toilet paper again? Clorox wipes? And who is hoarding the sour cream? So many things we never thought twice about, we now search frantically for. And can I just say that personal grooming is kind-of gone to hell in a handbasket? Corona beards have taken over at our house. I cut our youngest son’s hair this week, but now no one else will let me near them with scissors. It wasn’t that bad, was it? My husband, Rob, says he is going to just grow a pony-tail. OK, I don’t have anything against man pony-tails, but the look is just not for him. His will be spikey. I just can’t even. As for me, the box of store-bought hair color is calling my name. Desperate times, indeed.
But, my friends, the harder, more painful loss is the contact and the connection with people. No, we’ve not given up friends, but we’ve had to give up being together with friends and even family. Hugging. Congregating. Celebrating. Being in church together. Everyone faces new struggles. Rob is running a company from a distance, and trying to uplift and support so many people. Our two college age sons, Clayton and J.D., suddenly find themselves doing college at home with Mom and Dad. I’m told our house does not make the list of Top 4,000,000 Party Schools of the south. Who knew? A senior year and college graduation suddenly yanked away. A sophomore year cut short.
Our daughter, Emily, is a nurse, bravely working the frontlines at her hospital, and stays away because of the extremely high risk of exposure. Our oldest son, James, working from home in Atlanta, doesn’t want to risk it either. And our dear MamaB, with her health at risk, needs to be separated from all of us and is so alone. So, like you, we shelter in place. We stay home. Together, but apart. For now.
We won’t take being together for granted any time soon, will we? Hopefully, never again.
And while many of us are in a time of unease and anxiety and separation, we are thankfully still comfortable in our homes. At the same time, so many others are struggling for survival, to keep families fed and homes together. Some are isolated and completely alone. Some are sick and dying. The storm is raging. Not knowing what to do with all of this, I keep coming back to the story of Jesus calming the storm. It just seems so fitting for this moment:
The disciples were capable and experienced fishermen who had lived their entire lives on the water, but suddenly they were experiencing a storm that scared them. One that must somehow have been different than all the storms they had weathered before. Maybe it was the worst storm of their lives. Or maybe it was just a really bad storm and they sensed panic in each other and then panic seized the day. But now, in the midst of the storm, all the little things they’d worried about a few minutes earlier didn’t really seem to matter so much. All they knew was the boat was taking on water, and if a boat takes on enough water, it will sink.
Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. I can’t say I blame them for giving Jesus a little shake out of his slumber. Can you? I mean, who can sleep at a time like this? They said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Don’t we feel that today? Jesus, don’t you care? We’re drowning here. Wake up, Jesus. Speak the wind and the waves into silence. We know you can do it. But right now, we’re just rowing for our lives and the boat is taking on water.
Nothing that happened that day surprised Jesus. Not the crowds they left behind on the shore. Not the sudden and violent storm on the lake. Not the water in the boat. Not the fear in the hearts of the disciples. Jesus was able to rest on that journey because he knew how the storm would end and he knew the boat would get to the other side.
The disciples? They learned something new about Jesus that day. They learned to see and to trust him in a new and different way. They had seen him perform miracles. This time, they experienced one right up close. When subsequent storms would come in their lives, they would remember to stop and ask themselves the very same questions Jesus asked them that night, “Why are you so afraid?” “Do you still have no faith?” Maybe we can learn something new about Jesus in our storm.
Jesus has not left us to cross this stormy sea alone. He knows how and when the storm will end. He will speak the wind and the waves into silence at the appointed time. We can trust that this boat will reach the other side. Six weeks in, we now know that the other shore may look a bit different than the one we left behind just a few weeks ago, but whatever that shore brings, we are not alone. He will be there too, guiding us through our new normal. And when we get there, we will have learned to trust him and experience Him in new and different, and perhaps even world-changing ways.
Bless you and yours during this Holy Week. May the joy of Easter sustain you each and every day. .
Ruth and Rob Bearden have called Madison home for 19 years where they raised their four children, James, Emily, Clayton and John David.