Editorial: A year with COVID-19, and where are we?

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One year ago, we started what we just knew would last only a couple of weeks, maybe a month. A year later, we’re still following COVID-19 safety protocols to one degree or another.

This one-year anniversary of the first closures in Texas is a good time for us to take stock of where we are.

What were you doing one year ago?

On the last day before spring break last year, I was helping with field day at our public elementary school. I didn’t know then it would be my last day to volunteer for a year and counting. Volunteers haven’t been allowed on campus since the middle of March 2020, in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols.

My son and I, along with others from our church’s youth group, were starting a Bounce mission trip in Waco. We knew about the approaching novel coronavirus, but it still seemed distant enough.

In the days before the trip, we were unable to find dust masks for our construction work. The pandemic may not have shut things down yet in Texas, but the panic had started. While in Waco, we started getting word of closures and cancellations. We wondered quietly to ourselves.

Our church met in person the Sunday after, March 15. Many have not been in the building since.

What were you doing one year ago?

The collective toll

A lifetime has happened during the last 12 months. Many have endured great suffering. Many others feel greatly diminished. Too many have had their lives turned upside down.

Millions have endured the financial toll of lost jobs and income. Millions have suffered the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual toll of losing family members, friends, coworkers and others to COVID-19. Untold numbers of those infected have not made full recoveries. For many, there will be no full recovery.

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From one end of the age spectrum to the other, we are carrying a collective toll. Senior adults have felt—if not actually been—isolated, while also fearing for their health and lives. Children have been silently worried and seemingly numb, carrying a generalized anxiety about so many things beyond their control.

All of us have prayed more prayers for more people more fervently than we ever thought possible.

As if these sorrows weren’t enough, our relationships have been tainted with toxic divisions over safety protocols and vaccines, on top of bitter disputes over politics, conspiracy theories, racial injustice and more.

Where are we now? Tired, if not exhausted. Stressed, if not undone. Uncertain, putting one foot in front of the other.

Where we need to be

Before the pandemic, we were celebrating a booming economy. We carried ourselves into a new calendar year like last year’s champion, thinking ourselves unbeatable. Then, COVID-19 struck with humbling vengeance, followed by social and political unrest.

We did not enter 2021 with quite the same hubris as we entered 2020. We would do well not to forget how fragile we are—individually and collectively. We need to embody humility in the days ahead.

My family and I have grown in gratitude for what we have. We have spent more time in conversation with both sides of our family, thanks to video conferencing. At mealtime, we thank God not just for our food, but also for our house, our health and for each other: “Thank you, Lord, for this food and that we get to eat it together.”

One year since the last spring break, we are taking fewer things for granted. We would do well to take even less for granted and to be more cognizant of God’s good gifts to us. We need to treat each other as one of God’s good gifts to us.

Not all of us are on the gloomy side of the street, and this is cause for gratitude, too. There are those on the sunny side who have experienced great joy over the last year. Some pastors have told me their churches are thriving—giving is up, fellowship is sweet, and important ministry is happening.

We would do well to celebrate with our brothers and sisters whose churches are doing well, even if—perhaps especially if—our church is struggling. We need to remember the challenges aren’t so great that they snuff out God’s work and will in the world.

Here we are

When the COVID-19 pandemic became more than a news story for us, we already were bitterly divided over politics. In short order, the pandemic became politicized and polarized. Last week, when Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate in Texas—which goes into effect today, March 10—our mutual contempt was barely disguised, even among Christians and fellow church members.

We are questioning or deriding one another for wearing masks or not wearing masks, for attending church in person or attending online, for approving vaccination or rejecting vaccination.

This is where we are, but it’s not where we have to be.

Bob Goff, in his daily devotional Live in Grace, Walk in Love, reminds us of the story of Joshua encountering a man near Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15). When Joshua asked whose side the man was on, the response he got was: “Neither. I’m the commander of the Lord’s army. Take off your sandals; you’re on holy ground” (my paraphrase).

Goff reminds us: “Jesus didn’t have to take sides. We don’t either. He loved people on every side, and we can too.”

This is where we need to be, standing on holy ground.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP.

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