It’s difficult to avoid the fearmongering about the coronavirus these days. Both traditional and social media are saturated with reports, warnings, guidance, and commentary. Over the past week, I’ve had conversations and come across a number of articles about how to receive the Holy Eucharist during these days when terror is all around and fears flourish.
I also read this past week an article about the long history of pandemics. This is not the first, and won’t be the last, health scare with the potential to kill millions. We don’t yet know what will happen with this one, but history shows us that the human race is likely to survive, even if the prognosis for individual humans is more challenging to predict.
One hopeful aspect of the coronavirus is that it generally kills 2–3% of the people it infects. In contrast, smallpox killed up to 90% of the Native Americans infected by the arriving Europeans. If we are careful and diligent with our health habits, we should survive.
So, what does this have to do with “terror all around”? I went to Morning Prayer on Friday with the Beloved in the Desert Community and stayed after to talk with them about the Enneagram. In Morning Prayer, one of the assigned readings for the day was Psalm 31. Yes, the same psalm I wrote about last week. This time, a different verse (13a) caught my attention, because my mind automatically went to the coronavirus:
For I hear the whispering of many—terror all around!
It is difficult not to overreact when we feel our very life is threatened—but it’s also difficult to maintain that level of fear. One meme that came across my social media feed this week connected our panicked buying of face masks and hand sanitizer with our non-response to the issue of global warming. Both should bring terror to our hearts—but it’s hard to hold onto terror over a significant period of time, and climate change is mostly a slow-moving catastrophe (although that’s certainly not true in Australia!).
So, here is where my Lenten commitment to writing poetry took me with this verse:
Fear is our pandemic—
Haloing the smartphone
Harrowing the diligent
Harmonizing with history
Drowning out the still small voice.
This corona lurks unseen
Maybe mutates unexpectedly.
Let us whisper
Prayers, not potions
Focus, not fears
Trust, not tribulations.
How are you responding to this health emergency? Are trust and prayer on your list?