In The Godfather: Part III, Al Pacino’s character, Michael Corleone, frustratingly says, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” By now, we all know the feeling. The “they” is really an “it” — COVID-19. Just when we thought we were out of harm’s way, that the Coronavirus had subsided, we find ourselves being pulled back in. And, with a vengeance.
Instead of a return to normalcy that everyone thought summer would bring, we are now looking at circumstances that, in some ways, are even worse than the spring. Lockdowns are being reinstated, either fully or partially, in many states. Indoor dining at restaurants in New Mexico is once again forbidden, even though the local Walmart and Lowe’s stores continue to do brisk business with little regard for social distancing. I’m just glad that this disease is able to distinguish between diners and grocery shoppers, not to mention protestors and mobs.
More states, including those with Republican Governors or Republican-leaning populations (Alabama and Montana), are imposing mandatory mask requirements. Businesses, not wanting to incur the wrath of local and state governments, are following suit. Walmart will require customers to wear masks in all their stores starting Monday, July 20. Now, if they would also impose some kind of modest dress code for shoppers, that would be even more helpful.
Of course, one of the biggest questions looming as we head toward the end of summer and beginning of fall is, “What about schools?” Should we? Shouldn’t we? Back to normal, hybrid model, or online learning for the entire 2020/21 school year? Two of the nation’s largest school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego, will only offer online learning at least through the fall semester.
The uncertainty surrounding this school year — from how learning will take place to whether or not sports, band, and other extra-curricular activities will be offered — continues to be a major stress factor for all concerned. I am right there with all the other stressed-out people. Not only is my youngest son supposed to start his freshman year of high school, but my wife teaches 6th grade English. We simply don’t know what will happen.
I know. If we want answers to our questions, let’s just ask the “experts.” Which one? If your FB feed is like mine, there are dueling “experts” for every facet of COVID-19. For every “expert” who says schools MUST be started as normal this fall, there is at least one other “expert” who gives the opposite opinion: “Start schools with kids and teachers on campus and you will have blood on your hands!”
The same goes for “experts” and wearing facemasks. For the record, I wear a facemask when I am in public, especially when I go to Walmart. There’s probably way more things that you can catch in Walmart than the Conornavirus. It just makes me feel safer. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. I have my doubts, but I am trying to do what I think is right, especially since my mother-in-law, who has underlying health conditions, lives with us. Why take a chance when it’s within your power to take a simple action that could prevent someone else from getting sick? You may have a different opinion when it comes to wearing facemasks. I’m perfectly fine with that.
What I’m not fine with is a facemask bully. It’s not my job to make sure everyone is wearing a facemask. It’s definitely not my job to be a rude busybody, accosting someone for not wearing a facemask. That might work in New York, but it will not be well received in most other places. It should go without saying that if a business — whether Walmart or the local mom-and-pop shop — requires you to wear a facemask to enter their store, respect their policies. Don’t be a jerk about it. If you don’t want to wear a facemask, then go somewhere else. Regardless of your personal stance on facemasks, I suppose we would all do better — COVID-19 or not — to follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Perhaps things have been crazy for a while, but this pandemic has taken the crazy-level up a few notches. How did we get to this point in America? Maybe it’s the general cultural climate. Depending on who you ask, election-year politics might be making us all a little crazy. Stir in a batch of COVID-19 and you have a crazy stew that is ready to blow the lid off your Instant Pot.
When crazy times happen, whether related to Coronavirus or to some other circumstances in your life and, things are spinning out-of-control, how should you respond? When things just aren’t going your way, what should you do? For some, anger seems to be the go-to response. Yell and scream and kick the cat (no, please don’t). Post angry rants on Facebook and Twitter. That will surely help, right?
Well, not really. There has to be a better way, even during times like this season of COVID-19, when circumstances are not to our liking. If you have lived any length of time, you understand that life doesn’t always give us the circumstances that we hoped for. Forrest Gump’s momma was right, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Sometimes you get marshmallow (yuck) when you were hoping for caramel. That’s because we live in a fallen world where sin and the consequences of sin still infect — and affect — every area of our lives. That goes for Christians and non-Christians. No one is immune from less-than-ideal (i.e., crummy) circumstances.
The Apostle Paul, who should have had some type of immunity card that kept him safe at all times, knew the reality of difficult circumstances. He was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. He faced numerous hardships and dangers, including often going without food and clothing (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28) Somehow, I don’t think Paul would have freaked out during a toilet paper shortage.
Yet, through his changing circumstances, Paul reminds us that we aren’t supposed to fight against our circumstances. We aren’t supposed to be angry or mad about our circumstances. We are to learn to be content, despite our circumstances:
“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”Philippians 4:11-13 (CSB)
Yes. Easier said than done. I’m quite sure the Apostle Paul didn’t want to receive 39 lashes on five separate occasions. Ouch! Nor to be shipwrecked three times. He certainly didn’t want that thorn in the flesh, which he begged God three times to remove from him (2 Corinthians 12 7-10).
No one wants to be experiencing COVID-19 and the circumstances of life that this disease has brought to our families, communities, nation, and world. We should be enjoying the summer, traveling to see grandma, watching sports on television, eating out at our favorite restaurants, and looking forward to the start of a new school year next month. Unfortunately, that is not our reality.
How could Paul learn to be content despite his circumstances? How can we learn the secret of contentment in our own lives? How can we face another day — another day of this season of COVID-19; another day with a business closed; another day without a job; another day with cancer; another day without a child; another day after losing your spouse of 50 years; another day without normalcy? How, indeed?
Contentment does not come naturally. For most of us, contentment is a lifelong struggle. But, learning the secret of contentment is one of the most rewarding life skills that you can master. Can you learn to be content with what you have, not discontent with what you don’t have? You never know when it all could be taken from you. With the strength that Jesus provides (Philippians 4:13), we can face any circumstance with contentment. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?