It seems like everything I say these days is prefaced by, “these are strange times.” And they are. I don’t like the phrase, “the new normal”, but maybe we should just accept that right now, at this point in time, the way things are is the way they are going to be for the foreseeable future. Even though taking all these precautions in our day-to-day life is an inconvenience, if we act like there is no public health crisis or even national emergency, we become part of the problem when we could be helping to “flatten the curve.”
So, I am doing my best to be a good citizen—practicing appropriate social distancing, washing my hands, coughing or sneezing into a tissue, etc.— but that doesn’t mean I am not anxious or scared. It doesn’t mean I am not inclined to take out my frustrations on others, projecting my own fears and anxieties on them. Unfortunately, I think that is part of what it means to be human, part of what it means to be broken, as we all are.
And yet, our fears and anxieties don’t have to control us or dictate how we act towards each other. Our brokenness doesn’t and should not have the final say. We are also children or God (1 John 3:1), made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). We have the spirit and love of God poured into us (Romans 5:5).
Most importantly, we have been given the gift of grace. John’s gospel tells us we have received a double helping of grace from Jesus—“grace upon grace.” John 1:16 So what, we might ask? What’s the big deal about grace? Or, to borrow the title from Phillip Yancey’s wonderful book, what’s so amazing about grace?
Grace holds together all these incredible gifts from God to us. The Greek word we translate as grace is “charis” which means “the divine influence upon the heart and our response to it and its influence in our lives”. In so many ways, grace plays out in our lives, by and through gratitude.
By all accounts, COVID-19 is an aggressive and highly infectious virus. The power of grace, however, is, I believe, much stronger. We have choices in how we respond to fear and anxiety. We have received grace upon grace, God’s love has been poured into our hearts; we have holy tools readily available to us.
In the days ahead, as we reach out to each other—face to face (maintaining a safe social distance, of course!), telephone, letter writing (wouldn’t this be a good time to reclaim this wonderful and nearly lost art?), email, text, or social media—remember grace. Remember the divine influence that has been poured into your heart. Remember that this grace can and should influence how we respond to each other. I believe grace can be a powerful vaccine for much of what is broken in our world and in our hearts. And we, each and every one of us, have the power to share this gift, bringing wholeness to others.
As Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Be well; be at peace, and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever,
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee