We are having a beautiful Spring in south-central Indiana. Vibrant green grass, trees in full bloom, flowers replacing one another in a sequence of staging: crocus to daffodils to tulips. Add brilliant sunshine and warming temperatures and it has been a prescription for lawn work, walks, bike rides, and sitting on the patio or porch.
Yet as creation shows off its multicolored palate, there is the reality of an invisible virus stalking humankind. In it’s wake the coronavirus is leaving behind dis-ease and death. I continue to marvel at this juxtaposition of the two – Spring and COVID-19.
“Juxtaposition” means “the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect”. It’s a perfect word to describe the current reality (at least where I call home). It’s possible to go outdoors and become engrossed in something other than COVID-19. In fact, that has been the gift of this Spring time. Nature is providing relief and respite. How we need it.
There’s a parallel in this juxtaposition with the annual pilgrimage Holy Week provides. The week of Jesus’ passion is itself filled with contrasting scenes, feelings and responses. I’ve often compared our journey through Holy Week to that of a roller coaster ride. We start our climb with the joy and hopefulness of Palm Sunday, then plummet to the solemnity, despair and agony of Maundy Thursday’s Last Supper and Gethsemane. Next, we feel the G-force of a wicked curve moving us into the cruelty and suffering of Good Friday. Finally, the ride ends (or is it really a beginning?) as we discover resurrection hope and the glory of Easter. Holy Week is built on juxtaposition – things that occupy similar space with contrasting motives and outcomes.
When such juxtaposition is descriptive of life, we have a choice as to how we handle it. Some of us, by personality or outlook, are prone to focus in on the negatives. We overlook the signs of hope and relief, overcome by fear and despair. We choose to sit in front of the wall to wall cable news coverage of this plague, oblivious to the sunshine’s pull. We fret and worry over what very well might be, rather than trust the God of creation, the God of resurrection to redeem it.
A different choice, and I believe a better choice, is to place our trust in the God of creation’s beauty, and the garden tomb’s vacancy. Trust is the antithesis of fear and control. Fear is often driven by what is outside our control. Many of us are fearful in the face of this virus because we cannot completely control it. We can take mitigating measures – social distancing, hand washing, wiping down surfaces. But we are at the mercy of others doing the same. Our every exposure to someone else is multiplied by their exposures, and how they have or have not mitigated them. Realizing we cannot completely control the situation, we may be tempted to instead yield to fear’s paralysis and doom.
Trust, the other choice in this juxtaposition, is a better choice. Trust, we might call it faith, still enacts the mitigating behaviors of social distancing, wearing a face mask in public, hand washing, etc.; but in place of obsession over what others may or may not be doing, it rests in the confidence that we have done all we can. We will trust the Lord with the rest. In fact, trust makes room for rest. We rest with what we’ve done, and we rest with God’s goodness and love. We rest from worry as we walk in nature. We rest from news as we rejoice in conversation with a loved one. We rest from social media as we read a good book. We rest in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
Does such rest keep us from becoming infected with the virus? Not necessarily. It does, however, keep the virus from infecting our minds, our spirit, our soul. The choice to trust dwells in close proximity of fear, just as resurrection is found near crucifixion, and spring is simultaneous (this year) with COVID-19. What will you choose?
Be still my soul, The Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently, the cross of grief and pain
Leave to thy God, to order and provide . . . .
In you I rest, in You I found my hope
In you I trust, You never let me go
I place my life within your hands alone
Be still, my soul