A few days ago, on my morning walk, I passed a very poignant scene. A young boy, probably five or six years old, stood on his tiptoes, leaning into the passenger window of a red sports car. Clutching a stuffed toy, he cried out, over and over again, “I don’t want you to leave Daddy! I don’t want you to leave! I don’t want you to leave! I don’t want you to leave!”
During the time it took me to walk by, his father turned off the engine of the car, but I didn’t stick around to watch what happened next. Instead, as I walked, I found myself thinking of all the children—an entire generation of humans—who are being irrevocably impacted by COVID-19. Children so young don’t have a sense of the global impact of a pandemic, but they do know fear. They understand changes in routines. They are hearing parents explain that their school is closed because of deadly germs and they have to stay home. Then they watch those parents having to leave the safety of home and go out where the germs are. It’s scary. It’s confusing. It’s traumatic.
As I walked, I realized how incredibly fortunate I was in my childhood. Yes, I had to wear hand-me-down out-of-style clothing as a teen, but I never went hungry. Yes, my mom was held up at gunpoint at work, but I never have been (and she was not physically harmed). I had a safe home, good schools, and plenty of opportunities and support as I made my way out into the world. There might well have been days when I didn’t want my parents to leave the house, but it wouldn’t have been because I feared they would die and not come home.
As I continue to reflect on poetry and the psalms during Lent, I’m noticing plenty of traumatic fears there, too. Psalm 3 speaks of trusting God even though “tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 23 speaks of fearing no evil, even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 46 declares that we (all of us, as a global community) shall not fear, “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
I have come to know Psalm 91 well over the years because it is said at Compline each night. Verse 3 says, “For God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.” We are facing a deadly pestilence now. Illness, grief, and death are already present, or lie ahead, for many around the world. Can we trust that God will somehow deliver us—as individuals, and as a global community? I certainly believe we are invited to pray for it. We are called to pray for the children in our midst, who can only voice stark fears of being left behind. We are called, in fact, to pray for healing and restoration for the entire world. The psalms show us one way to do that.
Life is precious. God’s blessings are precious. In what ways were you blessed as a child? In what ways are you being blessed now, even in the midst of pestilence and pandemic? How are you called to pray?