We have now been a week in quarantine. Longer in other parts of the world. The shock and novelty have begun to wear off, and now we see that this is life. Home. Self-isolated. With our families.
School at home. Work at home. All day at home. Or out walking grooves in our sidewalks – respectfully paced from others, of course.
Families are separated. Friends are separated. Until further notice.
In all unlikelyhood, there is a bounty of beauty in this time. I’ve written about that here.
But life as we knew it has been horribly disrupted. Practically, how then shall we live?
I was reading through Matthew 5 with some friends last week (over Zoom, don’t worry) – the place in the bible where the famous Beatitudes are written.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Matthew 5:3-4
The rest of the chapter goes on to give examples of a whole new code of behavior the person of Jesus brought to the earth.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder…’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, ‘…if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”Matthew 5:21-22, 38-39
Jesus is contrasting popular wisdom with a new heavenly wisdom. He is giving people a new way to live based on love and compassion.
So in this time of social isolation and global fear, how then shall we live? And further, now that the Church has left the building, how then are we to act?
We looked at both Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4, where concepts of the Beatitudes are fleshed out. Then we brainstormed the beginnings of a code of behavior for our current suffering of sickness and isolation based on the Beatitudes.
How can we be helpful when we can’t physically connect?
How can we show care for our neighbors when we can’t visit?
How can we be loving when we’re not allowed to be in the same room?
How should we posture ourselves in this time unknown?
What should we value so we don’t become crazy people who stay in our pajamas all day, eat peaches out of a can, and talk regularly to the ten other individuals in our heads?
This is what we came up with so far, our Pandemic Beatitudes.
1. You have heard to fear, but I tell you to share hope.
Share hope. We can’t be in the same room, but we are gifted with the incredible tool of the internet. We can still communicate living room to living room. And we can choose what narrative we speak in to.
Will we perpetuate the fear narrative, or will we consciously post and share things that bring life and hope? What message about life are we going to spread?
We can still laugh, we can still hope, we can still enjoy life, even when our lives have a fraction of the square footage they are used to.
2. You have heard to isolate, but I tell you to seek connection.
We cannot give out hugs, but there is no reason to stop connecting. FaceTime. Zoom. Text. Phone call.
Connection with other people is like an oasis in this communal desert. So seek it out. It literally only requires pushing a button or two.
FaceTime a different house every day. Zoom with your morning coffee crew. Check in on your people. Not everybody is doing fine right now. Find those people and make sure you connect with them too.
We also have legs and we are allowed to walk outside. Keep your distance and wave through your friends’ houses windows. Drop off Easter chocolate and a fresh bag of coffee. We all know the new and old stay-at-home moms need it.
Connection looks different right now. But it is still wildly possible.
3. You have heard to hoard, but I tell you to hold what you have with open hands.
It is amazing the difference this posture makes. All of us have heard the narrative to build your own wealth and get ahead. This is not the time to do that. This is the time to share.
It takes practice to uncurl your fists gnarled around all that you own and hold it openly to share with others. To let your hands openly support a river of goods flowing in and then just as quickly out.
Communal sharing. Not hoarding. Not seeking your own good or own betterment, but the health of everyone around you. Everything that is in your house right now is shareable. Once it has been sanitized.
4. You have heard to plan for your future, but I tell you to joyfully embrace uncertainty.
We all like to think we are in control of our lives. 5-year-plans. Health goals. Financial goals. Career goals. Micromanaging our schedules to live our best life and be healthy and happy and whole. But micromanaging has never brought wholeness. People are starting to learn that out of necessity. Their value system has been entirely disrupted.
This is a time in history when humanity is reminded that as much as they can plan for their lives and schedule their way to the corner office with a view, we are, and have always been, at the mercy of external circumstance.
And further, when life is broken down to its necessary composite parts of family, outside, creativity, community, and stillness, that success looks entirely different. We cannot rush to get ahead. Waking up at 5:00 like all the high-earners will only allow us the first pot of coffee or the ability to conference-call with Japan before they fall asleep.
We are ultimately not the authors of our environment. The pen has been taken back. We have been given time to re-discover life’s essential composite parts, to focus on the things that truly bring joy.
Right now life is uncertain. Your goals have all but become irrelevant. Pivot to focus on what freely gives joy. Be still. Remember your passions. Remember how good it is to belong to family. Give to community. Trust your skills. Go for a walk.
And trust that your God has a brilliant plan to get your family and all your neighbors through this. You will not become destitute with your inability to strive in the ways you are used to.
The Pandemic Beatitudes. What would you add?