I went grocery shopping today. I think it’s pretty clear now, if there was ever even any confusion, that I eat my feelings. As I was wheeling that shopping cart down the aisle, I looked down and noticed that I somehow had two loaves of fancy artisan bread, two packages of soft baked cookies, and more butter and cheese than should be in anyone’s cart at once. Is gourmet shredded parmesan necessary to survive a pandemic? I think so. I got the kids the sugar cereal that I never allow. As I passed by the other shoppers holding my Clorox wipe, they smiled awkwardly and held up theirs in return.
I think most of us are hanging out in the middle of the bell curve of fear, bouncing back and forth between anxiety and peace. And wherever you find yourself on that curve, it’s ok. It’s only our first pandemic, after all. We won’t get it right all the time. It’s ok to be scared. But you know what else I noticed at the store today? I’ve shopped there for years and I’ve never felt it before, but there was a kind of solidarity. A oneness. I felt it when everyone worked together and took turns to maintain an appropriate six feet around the frozen food. I felt it when everyone smiled a little more at each other. And when the elderly couple in masks was huddled together uncertainly near the back of the check out area and a grocery clerk rushed out and opened a new register just for them. The crowd parted like the Red Sea as they passed by.
Fear tries to drag us into the future. It grips the mind like a vise and we begin the great struggle of wrenching it back to the side of the bell curve we want. Back to peace. I read wise words today reminding me that the antidote to fear is gratitude. Finding joy and gratitude in the small moments keeps us in the present, right where we belong. Right where God has us right now. It’s a discipline as we face varying reactions to this crisis, and we won’t get it right all the time, but that is what is being asked of each of us. And I just have to wonder, what if that is a kind of healing? It doesn’t yet look like the healing that we’re all praying fervently for, but it is a sort of healing nonetheless. A communal healing. What if we come out of this a different sort of people altogether? A people who recognize joy because they’ve had to look for it instead of becoming desensitized by a constant stream of ease. A people who can rest in God because they now know what it feels like to lean on Him in the desert. And a people who can see Him reflected in the faces of one another. I’m praying fervently for a treatment and a vaccine, and I’m also praying that we can all suffer well. That we can learn to slow down, look up, and lean our fearful, aching hearts on Him.