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Lessons from the front

Ever since spring sprung what came to be known as COVID-19 on us, I’ve been curious to see how we would react. Crises are searching spotlights, finding our weak spots, pushing our boundaries.

Here is what I think so far.

I think we are not good at being alone. World War II moved us from the farms to the comfort of towns and then to the convenience of cities.

Our homes moved from family enclaves to being scattered among strangers. Our jobs moved from the farm to factories and office buildings. We went from our neighbors being down the road to people being around us all the time.

COVID-19 turned that on its head. We were told to stay at home, not eat out, and to not even go to church. Schools closed. And now that things have begun to loosen up, people are fearful of being pushed back into seclusion.

We need to re-learn the art of solitude without loneliness.

I think we need to learn the common grace of self-forgiveness.

We’ve become such a driven people—everything has to be bigger, faster, and more—that we’ve forgotten to take a breath and relax. More pointedly, we’ve forgotten that failure is not always a bad thing, that the path to growth is through abject failure.

Our teachers have led the way on this. I’m constantly impressed with what a terrific job our local administrations and educators have done with pivoting from the established model of education to this new mode.

And they did it with the knowledge that the transition would come only after trial and error, imperfection and struggles. It only came when they forgave themselves for not getting it right the first time on the first day.

That sense of self-grace is something we all need to emulate.

I think we are not as tough as we thought we were.

We came to call those who won World War II “the greatest generation”.

They were made of up boys who, when the Japanese beckoned us to the war with a cowardly sneak attack, ran to join the fight. Many of them were sent to almost certain death when they were within shouting distance of learning to shave. Fast forward seventy-five years. I’ve seen modern boys of the same age cry over being “triggered” by nothing more than mere words.

We’ve forgotten something important—there are no safe spaces.

I think that many of us have to learn the beauty of allowing difficulty to draw us nearer to God.

The 1953 version of The War of the Worlds when the aliens attack and things are at their darkest, people fled into churches. When COVID-19 hit, we did not flee to our churches. And churches are where we are taught the most about crisis and reaction to it. After all, what is the Bible but God’s instruction book on how to live in an always-imperfect world.

I think we’ve also forgotten that things are not always as they seem to be at first blush.

This week I was returning from Phenix City to the Valley. I had just crossed the long bridge. If you aren’t from here—and I hear from readers who have never even been to our area—what we call the long bridge crosses Lake Harding.

I was driving along minding my own business when the law enforcement officer that I’d been following turned on his lights, spun the truck to the left, and blocked the road ahead of me.

Just as he did that, another official vehicle screeched to a sideways halt right behind me. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t happen to me every day.

I stopped and waited.

Move ahead with me about ten seconds. Rather than blocking the road, the officer was turning around, evidently responding to a call. The truck behind me had been following too closely and had to slide sideways to keep from hitting me.

It all turned out just fine.

But things were not exactly as they appeared in the moment.

Maybe things are not quite what they appear at this moment in history.

Rather than a crisis, maybe this is an opportunity to learn more, to do better, to respond using out better angels.

I wonder how we will do.