My children have been refusing sleep tonight, so I decided to scroll through social media. While aimlessly scrolling, I recalled a video that I had seen a few days prior. I had wanted to repost this video but was fearful of the likelihood and abundant criticism I would receive. My thoughts on the pandemic have been very silent, predominantly due to fear of offending anyone. (Plus, who needs another voice on the internet with an opinion?) (Said I to myself.) But after I reposted the video, I read the comments. Most comments were of assent. But one prominent dissenter, for lack of a better word, had received nearly one hundred rebuttals on her comment. The so-called dissenter proceeded to engage with a majority of these responses.
I was unnerved. And it wasn’t because someone disagreed with me.
It was because I was drawn to someone who disagreed with me.
And to be honest, I didn’t know how to manage that.
Now, her arguments didn’t alter my position, but they were well-articulated, sources cited, and I was able to see beyond her conclusion to her heart. It was in the right place. It was so obvious based on her responses that she loved America, that she wasn’t on delusional, and that she owned a poodle. (Well, maybe not that last part.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that with each response she made, she was mature, she stood her ground, and she continued the conversation with grace. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that no single person was nice to her, respected her opinion (or her, for that matter), or even acknowledged that her soul was beautiful. I couldn’t contain my compulsion to keep reading. I was so stunned at the visceral comments people made to her: the name-calling, the cruel jokes, the assumptions. It literally hurt my heart. And in that moment, I knew I had to consume a bowl of Frosted Flakes to harness the energy to take up the challenge to which I felt called.
I opened my laptop and started typing as fast as I could. And here is what I wrote:
“Right now, what I see is that the ugly that has boiled down from this pandemic is as viral as the pandemic itself.”
I said what I said.
Notwithstanding the suspicions about a conspiracy theory, COVID-19 is a real virus. Call it manmade, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is real. The right thing to do is to stand up for human life. We are all created in the image of God. And notwithstanding the fact that this virus is real, the control and fear-mongering over it are excessive. It is right for us to ask God where our family should be positioned on these issues and to obey what He tells us.
Here’s the hard part: His answer won’t be the same for everyone.
I hear a lot of “love your neighbor” phrases being thrown around, specifically with regard to the issues of masks and vaccines. I’ll ask the same question those in Jesus’s day asked. “Who is my neighbor?” Your neighbor is the elderly who is frail, the teenager desperate for love, the school kids trying to live without fear. And you know who else is? Your great-great-great-great grandchild’s best friend. Decisions we make today directly affect our neighbors of tomorrow.
Here’s the hard part about that: Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we can love them both well. Sometimes it feels like we have to choose.
Each “side” calls their counterpart selfish. And they are right. We are all selfish. Such is our sinful nature. We only see our own side of the story and we all selfishly (or unselfishly) want to get back to “normal.” We are all grieving the loss of something, or someone.
People who have lost grandmas.
People who sent their tearful kids to school every day in a mask last year, knowing they wouldn’t be able to socialize with their classmates.
People who had loved ones in the hospital but weren’t allowed in to visit them.
People who have lost memories made on vacations.
People who haven’t seen their families overseas because of airline restrictions or health reasons.
People who lost their marriages due to the financial stress.
People who lost their faith due to the mantra “faith over fear.”
People who lost jobs.
People who can’t find a second car for their family because of the microchip shortage.
People who have lost children to suicide.
People who have postponed or canceled weddings.
People who didn’t get to give a proper burial or funeral to a loved one.
People who didn’t find out they had cancer soon enough because they were afraid to go to the doctor.
People who didn’t go to church for a year because the church didn’t take the outbreak seriously.
People who had to quarantine from their families for weeks because they worked closely with covid patients.
We all come to the table with our own experiences, fears, and heartbreaks. Everyone is hurting, on all “sides.”
We are only capable of being our own person. We can’t possibly know more than we know. (Put another way, we don’t know what we don’t know.) But what we can do is have compassion. We can assume that the person sitting across the table, or virtually “across the table” – the internet, the app – from us actually has a story. We can listen to it. We can respect it. The love of God, which we are called upon to display to others, transcends masks, vaccines, and yes, even a global pandemic.
Can we just see the best about other people? Can we say, “I disagree with your final conclusion, but I’d like to listen to what you have to say… what is your experience?” and then actually listen to understand, instead of plotting our next persuasive statement? Can we create a culture of unity, of burden-sharing, of loving our neighbor by actually LOVING THEM instead of calling them names? (No one will reconsider their stance on an issue if you call them an idiot.)
I keep hearing, “check the data.” Can we just agree that the only data out there is conflicting data? And perhaps that no one actually knows the full truth because we’re dealing with something unprecedented?
If we want to believe in masking, we can find data to back it up. It’s not “fake news.” If we want to find support for unmasking, that data readily available, also. We are responsible for the knowledge we consume, but at the end of the day, we should learn how to be content in the unknown, because, among the things we do not know, we know this: that the God of the Universe knows. He knows how this all began. He knows how it ends. And, yes, He knows when the toilet paper and microchip shortages will be restored. And that should give us peace and contentment.
I hear of a lot of jabs and assumptions made about people who take alternate positions:
“Bet you’re saying that because you don’t have kids.”
“Bet you didn’t have anyone close to you die or you wouldn’t think that way anymore.”
“Have you been in the schools to see how horrible that mask culture is?”
Maybe they haven’t been in your shoes. But they can offer a different perspective that you may not have considered. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. We need each other. We are co-dependent.
Let me say it again. WE NEED EACH OTHER. The vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The masked and the unmasked. But what we need most is love. The greatest of these is charity.
Greater than faith in a cure. Greater than hope in a free country. Love.
We do everything we can as if it all depends on us, and we pray as if it all depends on God. Not because we aren’t sure which one it is, but because it depends on us both.
When we feel out of control, it often helps to have something specific to do. Instead of posting memes (which are absolutely my favorite things, by the way), maybe each of us could find someone who is quarantined, isolated, or depressed, and reach out to them in love, mindful of their boundaries and respectful of their beliefs, whether these are the same or different as ours. And maybe, just maybe, we could find it within ourselves to look at someone across the aisle, with or without a mask, poked or not poked, and say, “Hey, I see you and I appreciate what you’re doing.”
What I learned tonight is that the majority of people we bump into every day aren’t out to destroy our country. The unvaccinated aren’t taking their chances in hopes that all the old people die. The vaccinated aren’t hoping that the Communists take over America and take away all our rights. Is there middle ground? I believe there is. Can I tell you where it is? Absolutely not. But I’ll tell you what I do know.
This is a war on terror. The terror of illness, loss, and the unknown.
I fear we may save our freedoms but lose lives.
I fear we may save lives and lose our freedoms.
I don’t want to lose either, but I don’t see a way to win both wars.
Unless we stop making it a war.
It starts right here.