Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17, 18)
A few weeks ago I was standing in line at a convenience store. There were two registers open, one of which was the lottery terminal. By the number of tickets in his hand, the fellow behind me clearly had a significant lottery transaction to complete, so when that register opened, I invited him to go first. He thanked me and said; ‘that’s the first nice thing someone has done for me since Covid began.’ I hope he was exaggerating because it sure didn’t feel like much, but my greater fear was that he might have been right.
The events of the past year have affected us in ways we can’t possibly enumerate. We are exhausted, we are anxious, and we are frustrated. Even the rollout of the vaccines, while amazing, have been fraught with concerns about side effects and the rampant onslaught of Covid variants. And if that weren’t enough, because we can’t see each other in person or only with masks on, we don’t get to display or read the range of emotions that would normally accompany our words.
All of this is to say that while we might be experiencing fear and frustration in others, it is equally likely that they are also experiencing the same thing from us.
As I have wondered how we might respond to these realities, I would like to offer a few thoughts.
First, from 1 John 4:18a “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” We live in a very fearful time, but in Christ we are surrounded in love and love is greater than fear. This is not to say we ought to be delusional; we have a very clear obligation to be careful and thoughtful in all of our actions, but Christians of all people ought to have a story of hope and of love and even of joy. Psalm 30: 11, 12 reminds us. “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”
Secondly, we are expected to have an extra measure of care for those around us. Again from scripture we read; “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1). A month or so ago I was in line at Costco. The line beside me closed just as a fellow got to it. He proceeded to berate the cashier for doing this. As I watched the interaction unfold I realized that the fact that he (and I) could shop mid-day while the cashier had to work spoke volumes about our respective situations. I also realized in that moment that one of the best strategies in these days is simply to assume that everyone else is having a worse day than me and to try to treat them accordingly.
Finally, the importance of gratitude in these days cannot be overstated. I have experienced so many people, who are working heroically for their communities and for their churches in these days. Saying ‘thank you’ makes such a huge difference. We all know this from our own lives and forget it so quickly for others. Your ministers and members have been going non-stop for over a year now. Look around, who needs a card? Who needs a call? Who needs to be thanked for their hard work. Take note and say thank-you!