I’m as tired of everyone else of hearing the word ‘coronavirus.’ It seems vague and abstract, and especially distant. Until I read that Tom Hanks has been diagnosed with it today, it seemed like a small and foreign issue, the same way we hear about wars in the Middle East and shrug indifferently.
Tonight at dinner my grandma mentioned a news interview she saw where a 30-something doctor was being interviewed after testing positive for the virus. “I don’t have many more days to live,” he said.
For some reason, this made things sink in closer to home than before. No longer was it a danger to the elderly or the foreign, but now it’s consuming someone whose name I know, and someone closer to my age.
The same depths of dread ran cold through my veins and I felt the same sinking sensation I did when my doctor used “The C-Word” (cancer) with me.
It was an immanent reminder that, whether or not I survive the outbreak this time, death has a day with my name on it. There is a slab of rock somewhere right now which will one day keep watch over my decomposing flesh forever. It’ll have my name and some clever words etched into it and they will last a few hundred years, if I’m lucky, before erosion takes its toll and my being fully joins the soil; my gravestone becomes nothing more than a rock for lobbing at toads in the pond.
The question that haunts my mind more than what will become of my body is what will become of my mind, my soul, whatever you want to call this consciousness of mine? Will it join in the merging of the stars as they collide into the perpetual sun over the heads of the holy? Will I be there to witness the burning out of the universe’s energy and Heat Death marks the eternal atrophy of all things?
Another question to examine of course is the course my life has taken on this side of death.
Did I steward my property well, or was I stingy?
Was I too comfortable?
Did I sing enough worship songs, and passionately enough? (Why didn’t I feel more when I was singing them?)
I’ve been thinking through the meaning of all of my desires, both met and unmet, and am curious about how well they hold up against the measure of eternity. For instance, when I was 18 and living alone in a cottage on Cape Cod, I dreamt of seeing the world and adventuring like a mad man. On this side of my 20’s, I can say I did a pretty good job of that. I’ve been everywhere but Antarctica and seen more than most people will in their whole lives.
Is that what it was all about? Seeing things?
Evangelical Christianity has done a good job of hammering into me the idea that it’s certainly not about doing things in order to earn your salvation. But is that even what the Bible says, or is that simply an Augustinian+Lutheran idea painted over the text?
But like they say, How good is good enough?
There’s no way to say.
I woke up with a sore throat for the 13th month in a row.
Then while driving, the song “Satisfied in You (Psalm 42)” by The Sing Team came on, and despite having heard it dozens of times, a certain line hit me anew:
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
This line, despite its simplicity and repetition in my life, gave me great comfort. I felt my body relax and suddenly realized that if I were to zoom out more from my own pain, worry, and discomfort, I would have a better vision of what really matters.
In this moment, are you blinded by fear of the coronavirus? Or Death? Or anything else that pulls you away from the comfort of God’s Word? The peace found in His presence?
Blinded by my own sin, my lusts and desires, my worry.
In effect, resting in Jesus — being held by Him — undoes the very title of this post. Because we do, indeed, have very long to live. Like Jesus told us in John 11, those who know Him will never die. (Shortly after He proclaimed that “This sickness will not end in death.”)
This virus, like many before it, will put many of the faithful to sleep, but this is no triumph of darkness. This is nothing to fear.
(In case you can’t tell, this is my way of working out my own salvation with fear and trembling.)
Where is Jesus in the pain and suffering of the world; the grief, loss and fear?
He is not far away.
In fact, He has become afflicted Himself and suffered a death far worse than a dangerous virus.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.