As I type this month’s essay, I am in most unfamiliar circumstances. In the adjoining room, my daughter is sitting at the kitchen table, her laptop open, doing schoolwork, while my son sits in the living room, his laptop open, doing the same. She is working online with her high school class, while he is doing undergraduate work. It’s noon on a Wednesday, in late March. Neither of them should be here. Lauren should be down the street at school, going class to class, interacting with her friends. Lukas should be 1000 miles away at college in Nebraska, having baseball practice, and preparing for multiple doubleheaders this weekend. Instead, here we are, just like all of you, our routines and our lives upended for the time being due to coronavirus concerns.
We spent our time bemoaning the situation, frustrated, and angry that our lives were interrupted. But once we settled into the reality of what is in front of us, the decision had to be made to embrace what we have been given, and what we have been given is time; time together, to be more specific. When Paul told the Ephesians to redeem the time because the days were evil, maybe this is what he meant. Take advantage of the time you have when evil is at your door. You never know when you will pass this way again.
So in our house we have dedicated special time for each category of our livelihood. We take some time each day for the physical man, whether running, lifting weights, or doing a workout video. The gyms are closed, so we have to adapt. We spend time on the intellectual with the kids doing schoolwork and NaTasha and I concentrating on the day-to-day operations of the ministry. I encourage the kids to take time for their spirit man, though that one is tougher to enforce when you also encourage them to follow the spirit and not be locked into a religious mindset. To help nudge that along we have done breakfast while watching livestream worship, and I’ll admit to at least a couple of mandated sessions of listening to me teach some Bible. Hey, what do you expect?
But the thing I have enjoyed the most is the family time of board games, cards, and television. Yes, I’ve enjoyed it more than the worship sessions, the scriptural discussions, or the times of teaching the Word. I’ve enjoyed it more because it is so unusual and so rare. And in its own special way it IS like worship and Word. It’s enriching and uplifting, which is what worship and Word are supposed to be as well. It has reinforced something I have felt for quite some time, that Christianity is relational, and nothing displays the heart of our faith more than family. A healthy marriage is a reflection of the relationship that Christ has with his church. A healthy relationship with our children is a reflection of the doctrine of sonship and inheritance. This isn’t meant to throw shade or condemn. If you marriage has failed or your relationship with your kids has strained all is not lost. Our faith is about redemption, where that which is lost can be found again; that which is broken can be repaired, and where the end is greater than the beginning.
With both kids home, all of us, like all of you, are basically forced to stay in together and find things to do. Those times around the table have become the highlight of the day. We laugh, we yell, we argue, all in good fun. We may never go down this road again, so we are redeeming the time. It seems better than whining about it, or worse yet, wasting it.
Out of these times together we have done more than our share of checking social media, which means we have seen a lifetime worth of memes, videos, and clever quips. We have also seen the postings about the wrath of God, the end-time judgment, and how we haven’t seen anything yet. At least one of these prompted my son to ask me about a scripture, and whether or not it is relevant for today. Of course it was 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 about plagues and judgment and God’s people calling on him to change things. We walked through the difference in covenants, and how an interpretation of that passage in which it is relevant for today would necessitate having a God that looked nothing like Jesus. In short, it brought Jesus into our conversation, and that is always a good thing.
So let us redeem the time with our families, keeping the less fortunate among us in mind by honoring their personal space, and avoiding large groups where we can. It’s not a lack of faith to honor the quarantine recommendations. You can create community in this day and age like never before, so take advantage of the online meetings, and don’t worry, face to face community will never go away. It is just on hiatus. The world has faced quarantine before and will so again. It is the most blatant way of taking the command of Jesus serious to “do it to the least of these, for you’ve done it unto me.” Take care of those you can take care of, and remember that what you will have to live with when this is all over is how you responded and how you spread either the kingdom of God or the rebellion of man.
I don’t believe viruses and plagues are sent by God to purge man or send him a lesson. I don’t believe it is in a father’s heart to wound his family in order to instill some discipline. Even if it was, it would be counterproductive to discipline to send wholesale plagues, taking out the innocent with the guilty. No, I do not believe God is on the warpath against sin, either in general or specifically. Part of the reason I don’t believe it is because Jesus claimed that the justice of the cross was a “Now” judgment and that all of it was going to be poured into him. That leaves no sin left unjudged. So if a disease or a plague comes against sin, it would have to ignore the cross, and could only remain just if it only came against those who had committed that sin. This would make the disease supernatural, for it could only be contracted via spiritual breech. We haven’t seen such a thing, and we aren’t seeing it now.
While we honor personal space, quarantines and social distancing, lets also honor the cross. It is the place of judgment and redemption. When we act as if it did not take care of what ails the human race, we do injustice to its beauty and its relevance. When we pitch God as the antagonist we make him out to be our enemy and we lessen the power of relationship. He didn’t send the virus but he is no less powerful in the midst of it. All things work together for our good, so consider what may come of this.
Maybe we will realize how much we need one another. After social distancing, we may find that people are important to us, that human contact is comforting and that we really are better when we are together than when we are apart.
Perhaps we will adjust our economy in a way that puts what is most important at the forefront. We may realize where we were wasteful, and where we should have been focused. Maybe we tackle big issues from here on with a more unified front, as we have seen what can be accomplished when we all focus on the same thing.
It could be that we are a cleaner society, a healthier people, and that we take advantage of free time in ways we never did before. I know I’m being an optimist, because the reality is that it will be so easy to go right back to all that we did before, and maybe even with more gusto. In some ways that won’t be so bad, but I hold out hope that we are better in every way tomorrow than we are today, and that at least we are stronger in our families because we spent so much extra time getting to know one another.
A little optimism in these moments can go a long way. I, for one, refuse to give in to fear and irrational anger. I believe our better days are ahead, and that the darkest hour means dawn is just in sight. I am determined to continue to magnify Jesus and his finished work, with the full realization that while our daily lives have been disrupted, our spirit man is still in need of a good washing and cleansing by the water of the word. So I move forward with the mandate remaining strong: “Let my people go!” Even in quarantine, you are still free, so enjoy your liberty, love life, and get ready to see good days. My prayers are with you all.
Grace to you.