If the past two weeks have afforded me anything, it is an uncomfortable amount of free time. As a slightly overly-introspective dreamer, I have filled these hours reading, writing and reflecting on our current situation. And I would be lying if I said that I did not clearly feel God’s presence in these moments.
Last week, I spent two hours on FaceTime with a friend. We skipped the normal daily summaries and somehow ended up talking about how to help the homeless population in our respective cities avoid contagion. At some point in the conversation I just smiled. And I could not stop smiling. I wasn’t smiling because I didn’t understand the severity of the situation, but because I recognized a real shift in my priorities. Food points and C1 rides felt like problems for a century ago. I know I owe this shifting of priorities to God. I spent hours before this conversation studying His word. Trying to truly grasp what it meant to love the rich and the poor, to do all things for His glory and not for personal desires. As contradictory as it might seem, in an effort to be obedient, I felt the most free. I trusted that the situation is out of my hands and that my selfish concerns were trivial. The only answer is to do everything that I can to help others.
Despite a trust in God and a renewed desire to do good, frustration does not even begin to describe my feelings toward the deaths, inequities, and bitter political divisions resulting from COVID-19. Yet somewhere, deep down, I think that we have been afforded a unique opportunity to grow as a community. There must be some good that can come from this.
I am fortunate to be healthy and safe at home. Often this privilege leaves me feeling unworthy, unjustified in sharing my view. Moreover, sharing religious values and teachings has also been especially scary to me. Who I am to share the word of Christ?
I am also fully aware that I often sound crazy talking about God’s grace in a broken world. Worshipping Jesus necessitates a leap of faith that I know is far from easy. But looking at the panic in myself and in the world around me, I had to let go of the fears or selfish motivations that previously kept me from writing about religion. Now is the time more than ever to be unified in one body and towards one goal. We need the unconditional love for others that Jesus Christ shows all the time. But if there’s any one time, it’s now.
I think specifically about the emerging racism around COVID-19 and the propensity to call the virus the “Chinese virus.” In my Chinese 204 class last week, we had the opportunity to speak over Zoom with people in China now about the effects of the virus. I asked about racism. Their response displayed poise, class, and frustration with aspects of political sentiment. They expressed that they understood where names like the “Chinese virus” originated, and still thought that these names were unnecessary, divisive and caused more problems than created solutions.
The thought of others not understanding the negative consequences of this name designation made my blood boil. There’s never a time to create racially-charged divisions, but especially not when dealing with a virus that affects us all. Advocating for anything other than unity and peace is sickening. Paul teaches in the Bible that regarding the divisions between Israelites and Gentiles, “[Jesus Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:13-14). The same is true today. The artificial groups and divisions we have created between us guide us further from the truth and our common goals. Imagine if everyone had an understanding that we all come from the same Creator, work towards the same goal, and exist within the same body. We cannot afford to harm or speak poorly of anyone else. A unifying love for humanity would not allow it.
Maybe for someone else, God brings solace in the fact that hard trials—ones that test an entire population—are no new phenomenon. There’s a comfort to be found in unison, to know trials have been overcome before. That there will be a delivery out of this present struggle. But like when Moses delivers the Israelites from slavery, faith, hope and love from humanity are some important pre-requisites to delivery. We must actively seek out the next best course of action and do so with love and self sacrifice.
So I say this not to advertise Christianity or encourage subscribing to a specific doctrine. I have just been reading the Bible a lot lately. I have been trying to talk to God to understand how, in my own faith, I can make sense and good of this situation. God has made some good points in his word that I feel compelled to use this platform to share. I think that no matter where you come from or are currently quarantined, there is benefit from more love, grace and acceptance. More active recognition of how small we are in an interconnected, beautifully broken world. How glorious and necessary is it to do our own part to help this greater body and being we exist in and serve. How the things we value on earth like grades or hoard like food and toilet paper mean nothing compared to the compassion we can show each other now. (These intangible things live on. Corona or not.) How we should seek to understand where others come from and validate their experiences. The Jesus I know teaches us to recognize the greater injustices that Corona creates outside of our own lives and limited perspectives. Because at the end of the day, we are all one. And every part of the whole matters.
Naima Turbes is a Trinity first-year. Her column, “mind over matter,” runs on alternate Thursdays.
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