by Chris Easley
Today was the day it hit home for me. This is serious.
It was in an afternoon meeting with my staff team (via Zoom, of course), and my supervisor updated me on the Surgeon General’s recent warning: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”
Last week, things were disorienting. I was suddenly working from home, trying to navigate video conferencing, “attending” church via livestream (a practice I, as a sacramental Christian, had always treated with mild contempt in the past). My attention was occupied by how to adjust my lifestyle, and as I made adjustments, I thought, “Well, maybe this won’t be so bad.” Yesterday, I even felt like I hit my stride. I had my new work-from-home routine figured out, and was beginning to get traction. A couple months of the shelter-in-place, and maybe back to normal by summer, right? Sure, my retirement savings might take longer to bounce back, but I’m young.
As recently as Friday, Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease expert at University of Chicago Medicine, shared a frank outline of the risks, as well as an inspiring best case scenario:
In short, without taking drastic measures, the healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable. We have to fight this fire before it grows too high. These extreme restrictions may seem, in the end, a little anticlimactic. Because it’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix from your couch.
But if we do this right, nothing happens. Yeah. A successful shelter in place means that you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing. And you’d be right. Because nothing means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here.
On Friday, it was that second paragraph that stood out to me. The measures seemed appropriate to prevent the virus from spreading to a point beyond our capacity to provide adequate healthcare. Surely we’d make it through and breathe a big sigh of relief.
But now I am sobered. It appears that we have not been “doing this right,” or at least we haven’t been doing it early enough. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that, “We haven’t flattened the curve, and the curve is actually increasing.” Over the next two to three weeks, thousands of new cases will emerge across the country. In certain urban centers, it is highly likely that we will run out of hospital beds and ventilators. There are people who will die—young and old, immunocompromised and not—simply because they cannot get access to appropriate healthcare.
If current trends continue, someone you know will die of this disease.
I still want to hold out for that image from Dr. Landon, the anticlimactic success. I’m praying for that outcome. But the time has come for us to prepare for the worst even while we pray for the best.
Immediate next steps are clear. Do the five. Honor the guidance of government officials. We may not be able to flatten the curve as well as we had hoped, but every precaution we take now can still save lives.
This is serious. But we don’t have to be afraid. That is the counterintuitive promise of the gospel. Even while we shelter in place, talk to loved ones on FaceTime while wishing they were near, and (yes) watch the death count rise on the news, we need not fear. Not because we or those we love will surely be protected from harm, but because no matter what happens, the great God of love is with us. In our suffering and anxious thoughts, God is with us. In our unanswered questions of “How long?” and “Who next?” God is with us. In our own sinful and inadequate responses to crisis, God is with us. His love is with us. His power is with us. His constant care and affection and goodness is with us, every day.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,Psalm 23:4, ESV
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me
As we step into whatever tomorrow brings, let’s remember that.