When everyone is confined at home, despite improving spring weather and no immediate illness concerns, the surreality of it has many effects.
One good effect is that my natural tendency to shelter in place (SIP) and be socially distant (SD) has made me the breakout star of this pandemic. I would be famous for it except I'm so good at it, no one knows I am alive!
I admit, it seems weird. Sightings are rare. When my neighbors see me, usually going to and from the mailbox or taking out the trash, I'm wearing workout clothes because I can. This was true even in January when the temperatures were much lower.
From a distance, I can almost hear them muttering, 'What a weirdo.'
Up until the COVID19 crisis, they would have been 100% correct.
I'm an elite SIP/SD Practioner, Level 24. A role model for responsible behavior in this bewildering time and an example to my fan. (singular - thanks honey!)
Some call me a hero, but gosh, I dunno...
One of the secrets of my social distancing success that I'll share with you lucky readers is that I do not 'wing' each day. I have a list of things to do. Solitary things. I don't fret if I don't finish. It seems there is always tomorrow. Progress matters. Quality matters.
Even a world-class social distancer like me struggles sometimes.
When you do the same things at the same time day after day after thrilling day;
When your rut is so deep that you can't see out of it (despite being wicked tall);
When your days and weeks run together into a miasma of beige,
When your ability to gauge things like 'What day of the week is this?' or even 'What month is it?' completely disappears,
When the highlight of your day is telling your wife how you used the word 'miasma' in a sentence...
Something eventually has to give. Fortunately (or unfortunately for us introverts), the crowd at this crossroads is getting pretty large. We're beginning to lose our marbles.
We all have the capacity to endure inconvenience for some period of time. That capacity varies from person to person but is roughly proportional to how sure you are of when the ordeal will end.
Getting 'snowed in,' for example, is the only equivalent we have to something like this. That lasts a week, tops. Imagine being snowed in for (possibly many) months? Unless you live in that hotel in The Shining, you can't. (And things didn't go very well there either).
I believe that what we laugh off as 'cabin fever' is becoming a real issue.
There is a tendency, especially if you are not sick yourself, to become irritable, impatient, and worried. Also depressed, anxious, and neurotic. And don't forget obese, malnourished, or bulimic. And possibly bankrupt.
Increasingly we will yearn for what you used to think was 'normal.'
There is already a false either/or that we cannot continue to protect ourselves from this virus, while simultaneously reviving the economy. If we keep protecting ourselves, using my proven SIP/SD Level 24 skills, we will 'go broke.' They say we must 'restart the economy' as though it were simply a car stalled on the side of the road.
Unspoken in this argument is that people will die, but they will do that anyway, so why let the stock market die too?
It's an extraordinarily complex problem and simplifications, slogans, and ill-informed 'gut' decisions and 'hunches' make things much worse for everyone. They make things exponentially worse when voiced by the leader of the free world without any context or forethought. Or execution.
Some people think they can tell you with authority which of these options matters more. But the right answer is, they both matter. A lot.
Why people matter should be self-evident but if it isn't, remember that you are a person and as such, you are at risk. (Even if you're a SIP/SD pro like me). Furthermore, even if you don't care about yourself, Rambo, you probably care about someone else. Maybe even a lot of people.
The markets and the economy as a whole matter because they are the engine by which American Normalcy is maintained. Whatever the new normal is, the economy is going to be its means of movement.
The consequences of failure to address both priorities are dire and go far beyond who is or who becomes president. Failure on this will cloud future presidencies and likely this and the next generation or two, if not more.
Many are longing for the return to normalcy, despite the painful deaths of thousands and even millions of our fellow humans across the globe. Thoughts and prayers (the cliche, not the real thing) will abound. But the nightmare will end and we will return to our regularly scheduled programming. Right?
But what if the 'golden calf' economy doesn't recover? What if our wealth and privilege are drained fighting the 'invisible enemy?' What if the crisis is universally agreed to be 'over' and there is no wealth available to 'restart' the economy?
What if the new 'normal' is not as good (that is, privileged) as the old one? Or what if the privilege shifts to someone else?
In the Bible, the book of Job is about what may have been the wealthiest man of his time. Job was the definition of 'privileged' but he was also known as a righteous man, fair in his dealings, generous to the poor and vulnerable.
To illustrate Job's righteousness, God allows Satan to inflict a series of calamities on Job. Satan believes that this 'righteous' man will lash out in anger, cursing and sinning against God. God says, no, he will not.
Satan systematically takes from Job everything he had worked so hard for and everything he loved. This included all of his children, his home, the respect of the people around him, and finally even his health. Despite being upset and wanting to 'argue' with God about the situation, he never lashes out and curses God.
In fact, when the first wave of suffering hits, he is famously quoted in Job 1:21, '...“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Despite horrible circumstances, Job stays true to his faith in God. And in response, God heals him, restores his household, giving him many more children, and even more wealth than he had originally.
Do we have the patience of Job? Do we trust God no matter what cards life deals to us? Will our faith allow us to stand strong despite awful circumstances?
Or are we so invested in the golden calf with it's visible, immediately accessible riches that when it is taken away, we immediately curse God, or turn our backs on Him?
If we do so then we are missing the lesson He is trying to teach us which is:
If you have God, you have all you need.
During this pandemic, many people have died, and it is nowhere near over.
More will die as it sweeps across the world.
Survivors may suffer debilitating effects of the illness for the rest of their lives.
Homes, jobs, and businesses will be lost, never to be regained.
Relationships that are built on the flimsy foundations of money, power, and possession, will be washed away.
Time will pass, events will unfold, and the heroes and the goats in all of this will become increasingly clear.
Some of the heroes may not get their due credit.
Some of the goats will evade or deflect blame.
Some heroes will be seen as goats and vice versa.
Well-earned good reputations will be ruined while opportunistic others are lauded for their prescience.
Family, friends, money, power, and reputation. Job lost all of these. And yet he continued to praise the Lord.
All of these things are at risk for people today. The pandemic is the vehicle by which God is teaching some of these lessons. Let us pray for Job's patience while hoping that we are not tested as he was.
It bears repeating and it's not cheating to look at your notes:
If you have God, you have all you need.
Thank you for reading. God bless you. Stay safe and healthy.
Jim Donaher is a writer, blogger, and author of the soon to be published, "Call Him, He's Home: Learning Prayer to Start and Grow Your Relationship with God" Click the title to read an excerpt.