We typically think of an apocalypse as a final catastrophe, but when we look at its Greek etymology, it also means a “revelation, an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling.” (source)
It is in this way that I think of the Coronavirus pandemic. Not as a final catastrophe, but as an unveiling – revealing to us the truth behind our busyness, our full schedules, our self-importance.
What the apocalypse reveals
For some of us, it reveals that we claim our identity in the jobs we hold. We struggle to regain our sense of self and self-worth now that we are working from home or no longer employed. We are adrift in a lost sense of purpose.
For some of us, it reveals where we have put our trust – we obsess over the stock market and bemoan our lack of savings. Our uncertain financial future keeps us awake at night.
For others, the health of our relationships comes into sharp focus as we are stuck inside with our partner. We come face to face with our true feelings about this person. We wake up to the healthy and unhealthy ways in which we relate to them.
For many of us, the unveiling reveals that what we truly need to live well fits on a shockingly small list: family, shelter, food, love. We are filled with gratitude for anything extra, making clear all the things we took for granted before the pandemic hit us.
For yet others, this apocalypse has revealed that we relish this slowed-down version of a quiet life, where we have time to take family walks and call out hello to neighbors and strangers. Where we cook from scratch and gather around the table for meals, where we have the time to discover and appreciate who are kids are as people, free from the distraction of extra curricular activities.
In her book Shameless, Nadia Bolz Weber writes about apocalypse this way:
“The corner has peeled up on our culture, and no there is a little cat fur and dust on it, and we can’t get it to stick back down. I suggest we must take that peeled-up corner and pull, even if it hurts.”
Logic and reason tell us that eventually life will return to normal. The crisis will end. Schools and churches will reopen. And while we have little to no control over the job market and the stock market, we do have control over whether we take that peeled-up corner of our lives and forcefully stick it back down or if we do the hard, at times painful work of pulling it up.
In the aftermath of this apocalypse
When this crisis is over, I don’t know that I want to go back to our regularly scheduled programming, where we dive head first into our busy, self-centered lives. I don’t know that I want to pick up where I left off, the frantic pace of life that didn’t allow much time to enjoy the relationships of those closest to me.
If we all just force that pulled-up corner of our lives back down, then what was this pandemic for? Let’s not waste our suffering – instead, may it be the catalyst for much-needed change.
A fellow writer and Instagram friend, Brandy Wallner, is using this time in quarantine to reflect on the good things. Every day, she posts a picture with the hashtag “What I hope remains.” On her list so far: neighborhood walks, a sense of community, dependence on God. Not only does this exercise foster gratitude, it acknowledges that there are important changes that can come out of all of this, if we let it.
Without a doubt, there will be awful consequences to this pandemic. The death toll climbs steadily. The financial fallout will effect millions. Reading the news makes it seem like the sky is really falling, the world as we know it is indeed ending. In its ashes, I hope we can rebuild our lives keeping in mind the good gifts this apocalypse revealed to us.
This pandemic is an apocalypse that reveals the truth behind our lives. Let’s not waste our suffering, but use it as a catalyst for change.Tweet
Because the truth is that each one of us will face a choice when this is over: we get to decide what our new normal will look like. Our consumerist and materialistic culture will pressure us to go right back to the way things were before, spending all our money and all our valuable time on things that don’t matter.
Let’s resist that temptation. Let’s take a good hard look at what that peeled-up corner of our lives has revealed and make thoughtful choices about what needs to stay and what needs to go. And may we pray for the discernment to choose wisely.
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