Photo: From my trip to the drug store today. At least people are planning to brush their teeth.
A few years ago, six of my friends and I read and experienced Jen Hatmaker’s “Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” For seven weeks, we abstained in some way from seven different areas of excess. One of the things we learned, is that you can do almost anything for a week. A month would certainly be more difficult. And a permanent change? Well,…
I’ve been thinking about this as we are one week into social distancing and self-quarantine. Today, the governor announced that Wisconsin will be sheltering in place beginning tomorrow. All essential businesses will be closed and people should not gather with those outside their home.
I’ve only left the house twice in the last ten days because I have a cough and headache (no fever, but still makes sense not to pass anything along to others). So, my family is already mostly sheltering in place. As is probably the case for most of us, it’s like a long weekend at first. We hang around in our comfy clothes, play games, and watch movies. We got take out a few times. There were some runs to the grocery store.
We can do anything for a week.
But now we’re looking at more than a week. Realistically, we will probably be in this situation through May. Even after the number of new cases begins to decrease, we’ll still need to keep separate to prevent the virus from spiking again. I’m lucky I have three other people in my house and enough space to be alone if I need it. And I am definitely fortunate that we don’t have underlying health issues, can buy the food we need, and we’re not concerned about losing our jobs. But it’s still not just “life as normal.”
One of the things I noticed this week is that we eat at different times of the day. Breakfast is always whenever you get up, but we usually had lunch about the same time and would sit down together for dinner. But with the loss of outside social connection and a regular schedule, I find that I eat lunch at about 2:00. Then at 7:00, I realize I didn’t eat supper. There’s some snacking, but mostly I eat when I’m hungry. Same with the rest of the family. Throw in daylight savings time, and my day has become fluid. It has little form except for Zoom meetings at specific times.
It’s a small thing, but figuring out when I’m going to eat is an example of how our social constructs will break down over the next weeks and months. Without social rituals, it can become difficult to order our day. Some days already, it’s like I’ve blacked out. I know I was busy all day and probably accomplished some things, but there’s no form to it. And was that today or yesterday? The same is true for the weekly rhythms of my life. Even Sunday doesn’t necessarily come on Sunday anymore with virtual worship.
What will the social norms be on the other side of this?
A friend told me yesterday that she identified a handful of healthy practices to help her stay mentally and emotionally tethered. Some are just things to do keep from diving into a rabbit hole of social media, gaming, or even New York Times crosswords — which I just ordered two new books of so that I don’t run out. One crossword a day is healthy. Five? Not so much. But others are self-care, such as meditation or exercise.
What I’ve realized after one week is that I need to be intentional about keeping some touchstones in our daily and weekly lives. Our family needs to intentionally sit down and eat one meal together each day. We might stay up later, but no one should become nocturnal. We may need to add some new rituals, like going for a walk each day. We should keep track of our screen time. We should probably learn to do something together.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 (NRSV)
We can do anything for a week, but we’re meant to do more than just get by. Some days, we will need to just get by. However, Jesus wants more for us than that. Just like discipleship, abundant life in a time of anxiety, the unknown, and perceived scarcity will require our intention. It’s not just going to happen.Just like discipleship, abundant life in a time of anxiety, the unknown, and perceived scarcity will require our intention. It's not just going to happen. #hope #community Click To Tweet
Here we are in this brave new world, although maybe we don’t feel that brave and there’s too much fog to see the new world with any clarity. Regardless, here we stand. We can either let “it” happen to us, and come out of the fog on the other side with lost time that we can’t explain. Or we can live like there is another side. We may not know what lies in between or how we will each personally be affected by the virus, but we can choose to stay connected, maintaining social connection and practices that are part of our shared community.
Things will look different on the other side, but we can make it easier to knit together the fabric of our shared lives if we choose. I might still eat lunch at 2:00, but I can make sure I sit down at the table and eat it with my family.
I leave you with how I closed my sermon last Sunday
The focus in Lent is the journey to the cross. We’re experiencing this journey in a new way this year. We face our mortality and deny ourselves as we enter into 40 days of self-examination. Few of us count out those days, but if we did, we would see that Sundays are not included in the count. In some traditions, the Alleluia is buried until Easter.
The fourth Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday. Laetare is the Latin word for rejoice. The fourth Sunday is mid-way through Lent, and we pause from our introspection to remember together that Easter is coming. After betrayal, torture, and death — life is coming. This is the promise we have in Christ. This period of uncertainty, fear, illness, and death will end. But these will be overcome by life. For even in a period of increasing darkness, the mystery of our faith is still true:
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again.