Coronavirus continues to swamp headlines and conversations until it seems there is nothing else going on in the world (and certainly not on social media!). While that is not true, the changes we are struggling to make in the face of a pandemic have become the lens through which we view everything else.
Consider my initial response to reading Psalm 73, verse 13:
All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
I couldn’t help but think about memes of skeleton hands, warnings against washing off all the natural germ-resistance that lives on our hands…and of course all the hand-sanitizer stories and jokes making the rounds of social media.
Then there are verses 2–3:
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
It is difficult to learn more each day about the denial and incompetence of US political leadership (and the consequences of choices made months ago to not support public health projects and plans) and not become angry and condemnatory. Yet I believe that is the psalmist’s point. For the faithful, condemnation is not an option—because of what it does to our own hearts. We are in danger of stumbling and falling when we focus on the sins of others. The psalmist illustrates this with vivid imagery in verses 21–22:
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast.
It can be very difficult to avoid embittered hearts, especially when we feel powerless. Fortunately, we are not powerless in other areas of our lives. We are called, even in challenging times like this, to remember the spiritual power of our presence. If we are angry and embittered, we share that energy, that negativity with the world. As children of God, we are called to something more.
Even in this pandemic season of “social distancing,” we are called to draw closer to each other. We can do this through emails, phone calls, texts, and consciously sharing helpful material on social media (consider this powerful poem that’s making the rounds). We can exchange smiles rather than frowns as we pass each other in long lines or walking by empty store shelves. We can share rather than stockpile.
Here’s my small Lenten poetry contribution for this week:
Washing hands frequently
Washing hearts regularly
Wishing goodwill intentionally
How can you be a loving presence in your various social circles today?