Watching a pandemic unfold was never on my list of things I expected to experience in my lifetime. As this global Covid-19 tragedy has unfolded, we all have witnessed the best and worst of human responses and reflexes.
The best responses have been thoughtful, based on true and identifiable patterns, and inevitably include a heavy dose of firm but kind guidelines. These are the first responders, enlightened leaders and caregivers who have learned that faith and fear coexist in tragic times but they know how to feed faith while facing fear.
The worst responses have been reflexive, impulsive and resistant to guidance by experts or authorities. These represent our most egoistic selves, wanting to distance ourselves from anything that might ask us to change, to say no to our wants, or to put others ahead of ourselves.
At the heart of our reflexive and impulsive responses is a fear of losing control or other personal/perceived losses. More pointedly, our most negative responses are based in denial, which in other circumstances, might serve us well by buying time for us.
But in the context of global pandemic, our tendency toward denial is, very literally, deadly.
I understand denial. I was trained in it, groomed in it, conditioned for it, and have lived in it and fought my way out of it for much of my adult life. It’s insidious once it becomes a default operating mode.
Denial has a breaking point, though. In relationships, it becomes unsustainable when something happens that reveals the truth in a way no one can deny any longer. There is a very fine line between holding out hope for the best outcomes and resisting the truth when it makes itself known. Denial – resisting the truth – is, at best, a ticking time bomb.
In our current crisis, we do not have the luxury of time. Denial – whether from elected officials or from spiritual leaders or from each and every one of us just trying to live our lives – is deadly in this context.
In the days ahead in this 2020 Lenten season, as those of us living in the United States witness staggering losses and grief that none of us were prepared to face, I challenge those among us who are predisposed toward denial to snap out of it. If you practice giving things up for Lent, add denial to your list of things to give up. Face the grim truth of our circumstances and make the commitment to make the difficult decisions that will force you to change your plans. Allow this time of massive disruption to CHANGE YOUR MIND. Be transformed into a lover of truth, even when the truth is HARD. Be responsible to your neighbors and people you don’t know, even when it means your life is made less comfortable.
As people of faith would anticipate, God is at work in this global pandemic. God is at work through people and in ways we cannot predict. Our responsibility to love our neighbor as ourself has never been more evident than during this time of ordered stillness. Choose to be a life giver, not a ticking time bomb, as you make choices that acknowledge our reliance on the best of human responses as a matter of life and death.