I am full of doubts. Every morning when I wake up I try to resist the temptation to check the latest news, but often falter. CNN headlines have become my idol and my emotional regulation has suffered. I’ve become captive to the projections of the death toll increasing, clips of President Trump arguing with reporters, and production of Marvel movies and TV shows being halted (it might not be a big deal to you but they are a huge source of joy for me!).
Even beyond, I sit with the fear of receiving a text that a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a student is battling the virus. Or worse…receiving a call that a family member has passed away, knowing that the ability to gather as a family and mourn is essentially prohibited. Unfortunately, that very reality has happened to me, as my family received news that my great-aunt died this past Thursday.
My sense of self has been truly shaken. I no longer wake up with a clarity of mission, a certainty of my day. There is no organizing of the work bag, no commute to my school, no greetings to early arriving students. The usual parameters of the life I navigated have utterly shifted. I know beyond the walls of my house the “greater mission” still continues to exist. However, empty streets, mask-clad walkers, and a “stay-at-home” order have made the outside feel like a threat. How am I supposed to be during this time? Who am I supposed to be during this time? What is my way of proceeding?
The early disciples, like us, had to be asking these questions, as they locked themselves in a room out of fear of persecution and death.
Jesus answers both their fears and ours with peace be with you. A statement that is part comforting and part challenging.
A statement that reminds us to center ourselves back in what we know to be true…God does not abandon us. There are times when this truth is not real enough to break through the closed doors of despair and hopelessness.
For the nurse and doctor that has declared yet another patient deceased, God may feel nowhere. For the father or mother sitting at the table figuring out their finances, God may feel nowhere. For the convicted, whether rightfully or wrongly, sitting in a detention center fearing contracting the virus, God may feel nowhere.
It is in these moments that Jesus goes beyond his divinity and appeals to our humanity, His humanity with the phrase, “Put your finger here and see my hands.” Jesus knows and feels our pain. He cries with us and mourns with us, but he challenges us to hold onto our Peace. He challenges us to still see the good that is happening in our world: “A new birth to the living hope.”
Former nurses and doctors returning to the field to help. Grassroots organizations working to provide financial assistance where federal assistance has failed. Advocates working to open prisons and detention centers. Family members supporting each other in a time of loss.
The work continues and will always continue. We must hold onto that Peace. Let us not doubt, let us not despair, for “He is good and His love is everlasting.” This is our way of proceeding.
[In memory of Antoinette Green]
Justin T. White is a theology teacher at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.