What a day. I grieved to hear an Ontario grocery store worker mourn her soulmate, only 49, who worked his last day at Superstore on March 16, just a week and a half ago! Now he’s dead. For stocking groceries. We owe our grocery store workers SO MUCH!
I ache for the fear of the airline attendants who are given no PPE and who are, in no small numbers, testing positive, including one now in ICU. We owe them SO MUCH as they work to bring home stranded Canadians from all over the world.
I grieved over that young man, a wonderful nurse, in New York City who just died. His sister is heartbroken. His last text to her was that he was coughing, and then a ❤️. We owe our scared yet BRAVE healthcare workers SO MUCH!
I grieved with the woman crying over no longer being allowed to visit her senior mother — a mom to 3 nurses! — in hospital, dying alone. So many beloved parents and grandparents, having to die alone. Yesterday, it was a veteran of World War II, adored by his grandkids… – Debra Esau Maione (March 28th)
I am grieving today. In fact, I have been grieving for much of the last two months. It was nearly two months ago that I offered my first thoughts on this crisis. On February 7th I wrote:
A week from then the number of deaths will be in excess of 1300. A month from now, 5600. Two months from now, 16,500. I hope these numbers are inflated, but I don’t believe they are. By contrast, SARS killed around 800 people total.
I have been grieving, not just for those who have died, but also for the many, many more who will still die. Did you realize that more people have died in the past week than have died in the entire rest of the pandemic? And did you realize you could have made the same statement the week before that, and the week before that, and the week before that?
A friend posted February 7th:
Optimistic news re coronavirus – the plot of total cases passed the inflection point on Feb. 4. Watch for total cases to effectively level off at ~50,000 around Feb. 20.
I grieved, because I knew that there were going to be many more Chinas.
I have been seeing similar comments recently about the status of countries in Europe. Some of them accurate, many of them premature. And I grieve because we are still in the beginning stages of this, and the areas of the world that are least able to cope with this are starting to see their number of cases beginning to climb.
I grieve especially for Africa, the land where my family has its historical roots and where I spent my teenage years. I grieve for what is coming for them. If we look at places like Italy, Spain, France, and New York and are grieved how bad things have been there, imagine my grief for Africa where things are going to be much worse.
I grieve for other reasons too: For those who have lost jobs, and for those who will potentially lose homes. I grieve for our current homeless who are vulnerable at the best of times and especially vulnerable now.
In my time of grief, what really upsets me is the clichés that I have heard from well meaning Christian friends. Chaplain Mike listed many of the common ones in his sermon last Sunday:
- God will never give us more than we can bear.
- When the Lord closes a door he opens a window.
- As long as we’re in God’s will, we will be safe.
- If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it.
- God will put a hedge of protection around his people.
- This is just our cross to bear.
- God allows bad things into our lives so that he can turn it into good.
- God has given you this trouble to test your faith.
- God is trying to teach us something through this trouble.
- With God, everything happens for a reason.
What particularly upsets me at this point in time is this one:
- God is in control
I won’t get into a discussion of that theological thought in the post, but will note how this thought runs contrary to scripture.
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. – 1 John 5:19
Chaplain Mike pointed out that when Jesus arrived at scene of Lazarus’ death, “not once does Jesus answer them with religious platitudes.” Notice what happens instead:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. – John 11:33-35
Chaplain Mike went on to say:
Here is a primary answer to our human brokenness in times of trouble. We are not alone. The Son of God himself stands beside the grave with us and weeps. The Son of God himself feels our sorrows, our bewilderment, our anger, our sense of lostness. We are not abandoned in our grief. This is what we need most. Not explanations, not platitudes, not pep talks. A friend beside us to reassure us, to put his arms around us, to comfort us.
That’s what we need in this life. That’s why Frederick Buechner wrote his now famous words: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”
This is also what I need these days. I feel like the prophet Job, who, while mourning the loss of his family and everything else he has, has well meaning friends come up and offer poor advice. It is not what he needed then, it is not what I need now. Instead, come sit beside me in silence. Let me know that you care. Avoid theological debates that are just going to get me upset.
Exactly six years before I wrote my first post on the Corona Virus, I wrote these thoughts on “Job’s kids” on Internet Monk.
Sometimes life is tougher than we can manage. When I see others in that place I need to learn to sit and listen, and not be so quick with the clichés. I also have to be willing to take off my own mask and admit to others when I am having a miserable day, or week, or month, or year. For some “life is tough, and then you die.” I find it really hard to call that “good.”
I will conclude with these thoughts shared by N.T. Wright this week:
“Be gracious to me, Lord,” prays the sixth Psalm, “for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.” “Why do you stand far off, O Lord?” asks the 10th Psalm plaintively. “Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” And so it goes on: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?” (Psalm 13). And, all the more terrifying because Jesus himself quoted it in his agony on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22)…
It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope…
As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.