One thing about living alone is that I can make decisions for myself, at least, for the most part, decisions like what to have for dinner and when, where I go and when, and who I invite to my trailer and when. It isn’t a bad lifestyle except when faucets need new seals, the grass needs mowing, or someone tells me when and where I have to go, and I have no say in it.
I am usually a hermit. I can stay at home for days and only go out to lunch with friends on occasion, visit the grocery store, or pick up prescriptions. My record is about a full week, with no traces of cabin fever at all. This week, however, I seem to have a mad urge to go to the grocery store for something I forgot or have decided I want, go get a drive-thru burger from my favorite fast food joint, or even take a different (and sometimes longer) route to get to somewhere reasonably close by. It’s unlike me, and the reason is that there is a virus out there that kills, and I, as well as everybody else, is susceptible to it. While I don’t fear death, I’m not exactly going down steep hills on roller skates to get there.
Because of this virus, people are being encouraged, even ordered, to remain at home, work from home if at all possible, and stay put for at least fourteen days. That’s what is making me so itchy; it isn’t my choice to stay home, it’s someone else’s, and I honestly don’t like being told what I can do and when I can leave my own house.
I understand the concept of shelter-in-place as a way of cutting down cross-contamination from the virus. The Lord knows I don’t want to pass something along to someone that would kill them, any more than I would like to catch this thing and expire myself. Ok, I am almost out of a few things that I can live without for a while, but I do want to go and get them, despite the warnings. Since I have several of the designations that make me a person at risk, I know I should just stay home and only go out if truly necessary, but I just can’t always convince my mind that I am sheltering in place for my personal good and the good of others (like my cats).
“Shelter” is a word that represents safety, refuge, comfort, and protection. Quite often, it means a temporary state, like taking cover from the rain under an umbrella, awning, canopy, or roof. We seek protection from the heat in our air-conditioned cars, homes, offices, and other buildings. We try to take refuge from war, famine, epidemics, and oppression in places that we perceive to be safer than where we are currently. Sometimes that works, quite often it doesn’t.
The Bible is full of references to sheltering. The first one that came to my mind was, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps 91:1). Then there is “There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain” (Is 4:6). One that is frequently used in perilous times is “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in times of trouble” (Ps 46:1). There are many more such verses, all expressing longing for and trust in God as a place for us to feel safe and protected, even from the worst of situations.
I know many have faith in verses such as these, so much so that they are sure that God will not let anything bad happen to them. So what happens if and when it does? What if a hurricane comes and floods the land and people lose their houses, places of work, and even their lives? Where is God’s refuge then? Or what if a young child contracts a disease or illness that proves fatal, despite the prayers and supplications said on their behalf? Is the faith of the parents and loved ones misplaced then because God let an innocent life be taken?
During this epidemic, it’s easy to question where the refuge is, and whether or not God will actually act to save God’s people. We have doctors, nurses, first responders, firefighters, police, janitors, clerks, laboratory technicians – hundreds of thousands of people doing their utmost to keep as many people safe and healthy as possible, even at the risk of contracting it themselves. Can’t we see God in them, working through and with them to create a refuge under God’s wings? What about grocery clerks and stockers who put themselves in positions of vulnerability so that those looking for food and supplies might find them? It might seem funny to think of God as a janitor or cleaning person, but God loves the meek and lowly, especially those putting themselves in danger so that others might stay well.
So as we shelter in place, seeking refuge from illness and harm, let’s take time to remember those who may not see their jobs as a ministry, especially one sent from God, but nonetheless a ministry of love and hope, one that will help restore the earth and the health of all of God’s creations, human and otherwise.
Also, as we stay willingly quarantined in our homes, may we pray for those who are in danger, who have been inflicted, and who seek to be cured of their illness. Let us find ways to praise God and thank God for the homes in which we shelter, rather than the shelter we might be seeking under a bridge or a homeless shelter. We have much to be grateful for in this time of trial, so let’s spend some time considering those things rather than our shortages or greed.
Stay safe, my friends. Prayers go out for all of you, ill or healthy.