We've All Been Exposed
Undoubtely, someone has already used this title for a blog. There is much truth in it.
Even if we have not been exposed TO Covid-19, we have all be exposed BY it. As time goes on, who we truly are and what we truly believe is being revealed. All suffering and trials do this. Paul Tripp in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands rightly notes:
"We don't radically change in a moment of trial. No, trials expose what we've always been. Trials bare things which we otherwise would have been blind to."
COVID has exposed us all and, truth be told, many of us are troubled by what we have found in ourselves, and what we are seeing in others. Who we thought we (or others) were for many years, or what we thought we believed for even longer, has been completely undone and upended in about 30 days. Even though we fight hard to hide our true selves from one another--this virus knows no loyalties.
EXPOSED OUR FEARS
This trial has exposed our fears. Fear is a real emotion that induced when there is a perceived threat. Without doubt, there are those who are more vulnerable than others; those for whom death is a genuine threat. But, truth be told, death is a threat to us all...all the time. But in trials like this, we are more likely to fear the death of "something" versus the death of someone. Some are afraid to lose their lives, some their livelinehoods, and some their lifestyles. Fear surfaces when omething we value is threatened; fear intensifies when we feel helpless to stop that threat. Fear isn't necessary a bad thing; it has a divine purpose to lead us to God's love where all fear is cast out. But, as C.S. Lewis says:
Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear. But so do several other things - ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity. It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear." -- C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night
EXPOSED OUR IDOLS
If we follow our fear, examing what which we are afraid to lose most, it's possible we will find an idol or two. This trial has exposed many of our true functional saviors. We say we believe in God but, when suffering falls upon us, we are exposed as disbelieving God will provide or protect as he promises--so we look to something or someone else. Keller says it well:
"An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
What "essential" have we lost that makes living unbearable? We know we are likely worshipping an idol because, when that thing is taken away, we are not merely anxious or sad, we are devasated.
EXPLOSED OUR CONTEMPT
This virus has drawn lines and people have chosen their teams. There is no place for disloyalty in the virtual world--if you disagree you are my unfriended enemy! Jesus told us that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart. Perhaps if he were to have incarnated in the 21st century, he would have warned us that what comes out of our fingertips possesses the same powers. Trials make us angry. Anger is only the "tip of the iceberg." Unwilling to go deeper in order to discover the cause of our anger (e.g. fear, shame, etc.) we give full vent to our anger like a passive-aggresive posse online. This isn't a general kind of anger, is contempt directed at our chosen scapegoat. Our contempt is directed toward government, liberals, conservatives, false Christians, zealous Christians, or anyone, even family, who isn't as angry as we are becomes the expedient person to blame for all that feels wrong.
EXPOSED OUR POWERLESSNESS
Isn't it amazing has this virus has exposed our individual and collective powerlessness. In less than a few months, this invisible enemy has taken down our entire education system, our economy, our recreation, even our religious rituals. Rich or poor, strong or weak, famous or unknown, this virus has been rather impartial in its assault. With a cough, a sneeze, or a single touch of the face (so they say), we can get this virus. And it can potentially kill us or those we love. We are not as invincible as we thought we were. Sure, not all of us are vulnerable, but no one really knows do they. So called "experts" disagree and models change daily. No one really knows much of anything--it feels like a guessing game. We are not as smart as we though we were. There is only one thing for certain, our life is a vapor, we all die, and there is nothing we can do about it.
EXPOSED OUR PRIORITIES
Most of what we would have deemed "essential" to our lives has proven to be quite unnecessary. Obviously we need jobs to pay our bills, but we have lost more than our livelihoods during this epidemic. At first, a small two week restriction seemed wise and agreeable to the masses...for a while. Then the ordered was extended...and extended again. Businesses closed. Schools cancelled. Seasons cancelled. Activities cancelled. With every cancellation, the list of "essential" things became smaller and smaller. For some of us, this "forced minimalism" was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of life. We embraced the chance to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. For others, perhaps most of us, this shut down revealed that we have had the wrong things on our list for a long time, or at least they were in the wrong order of importance. Suddenly, all of the once "unessential things" (that are truly essential) have been brought to the forefront for us to see. And it's possible that, after years of distraction, this front row seat to our faith, marriage, family, and home has revealed a lack of stewardship. And it's even more possible that, when this all over, we will have different priorites all together.
EXPOSED OUR UNREADINESS
This virus has exposed just how unready we are to suffer or die. As Carl Trueman wrote recently: "At some point, however, the COVID-19 crisis will be over, and the question for Christians will be simple: “What should we learn from this?” And one thing seems obvious: The levels of general panic indicate that few of us have been properly prepared for the reality of our own mortality." he Bible calls death our "greatest enemy." Despite the fact that death is guaranteed to come to us all, we are always suprised when it rears it's dark head in our lives. Most people are not "ready" to die becuase most people never think about dying--they are too consumed with the trivial things of life. As Trueman wrote:
We have clearly become accustomed to remarkably comfortable lives. How else do we explain fights in supermarkets over toilet paper? Make no mistake, I regard bathroom tissue as a most wonderful invention, of greater importance than any cell phone or coffee machine, but it is hardly one of life’s absolute essentials. And I have often wondered about the significance of “saving lives.” “ Delaying deaths,” while culturally tasteless, is technically more accurate. We are born to die. Death is inevitable, which is why each of us finds it so terrifying.
EXPOSED OUR OPPORTUNITY
This virus has given us an opportunity to change. Most people don't choose to change because the most important changes are painful. Without trying, the time for change has come upon us and we must decide what we are going to do. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring: “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Unlike a bomb scare at the aiport which leads to two or three weeks of increased security, don't let this pandemic go to waste. This virus has exposed our frailty--that our life is truly a vapor. We must decided, therefore, not what we will do tomorrow, but what we will do today. We are not ignorant of the next right thing to do, we just always decide to do it at another time. As James so aptly says:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it. James 4.13-17