One of the hardest – if not the hardest – emotions for us humans to tolerate is the feeling of powerlessness.
And this pandemic, it’s waking up just about everyone’s sense of powerlessness. We respond to it in different ways: some of us manically schedule ourselves and our kids, even in isolation; some of us are rendered stuck by it, staring at the wall; some of us go into a state of denial and act as though nothing new is happening; some of us jump right into finding blame – how could this have been prevented?; some of us decide that doing something, anything, is better than nothing, so we do that: and sometimes it’s helpful, and other times, it’s not.
The truth of the matter is that the best thing anyone can do right now who is NOT a doctor, nurse, medical professional (or someone whose work is necessary for those folks to get to where they need to go, etc) is probably to adhere to a list of “do NOTs.” Do NOT go outside unless necessary. Do NOT congregate with others. Do NOT hoard groceries from the store. Do NOT go to the hospital unless it is an emergency. Do NOT keep your businesses open, do NOT have dinners with neighbors, do NOT have play dates for your children, do NOT… you get the point.
Here’s the one “DO”: Stay at home.
This feels like an awful lot of nothing for some of us (including me) and can be hard to tolerate, so I found some solace and guidance in our NT reading from Morning Prayer today:
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
It’s a challenge to take on the work of another part of the body that we’re not used to, but it’s critical sometimes, like now. I know that many people in the church I serve and in my circles of friends identify with the “hands” part of the body – they show their love and faith in doing good work in the world. Serving others, advocating on behalf of others, working for broad social change. But at this particular moment most of us are not called to be hands in the world, or at least, not in the same way we are used to being hands.
Of course, we can still do important work: advocate for others by calling our representatives, donating money to where it is needed.
But we have to stay put. Stay Home. Be present. And in a culture that prizes productivity, visibility, and action, that’s pretty counter-cultural.
Most of us, right now, are simply called to wait, to pray, to hope, to be ready for when our moment arrives for a different role. To be present to ourselves, to our friends and family (even if not physically present), to our world (even through a window pane), and to the Body of which we are all a part.
It doesn’t feel like doing something – but it is something. It is the most important thing for many of us right now. And it doesn’t feel good. But it is good.
Thanks be to God.