In a very brief span of time, the world has changed. Daily routines, work schedules, and budgets have been turned upside down. Even merely saying hello to a neighbor, walking your dog, or buying groceries have turned into anxiety-producing adventures. COVID-19 has arrived in Muscatine. We have lost loved ones already. We are also in the midst of a media barrage of conflicting information made all the more confusing by the fact that so little is known about a virus completely new to the world. Scientists search for treatments, vaccines, and hope. Medical professionals and first responders put themselves into harm’s way to help others in need. We wait with great uncertainty.
I don’t know anything about viruses, but I do know that human beings struggle when we are put into extreme circumstances of fear, chaos, and isolation. Call me an optimist, but I also believe in the resiliency of the people of Muscatine. We will get through this. There will be a time when we look back on this period of history and tell the story with a measure of detachment and objectivity. We’ll struggle to explain the emotional side of the equation to those too young to remember it, much like I have struggled to explain September 11th to children, and my parents have struggled to explain Vietnam to me. There will be a day after COVID.
In the meantime, a lot is up in the air. If you’re feeling lonely in the midst of the changes, know that you’re not alone. We are all in this together. One of the great spiritual tools that we have in times of need is the gift of prayer. If you’re not in the habit of praying, there is one particular written prayer that I find very helpful, one familiar to those who are in recovery. It’s called the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s:
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
It is a prayer that helps me take stock of where I am at spiritually. A lot of the time, I find myself worrying about things that I cannot control. Sometimes, I spend so much energy thinking those things through that I forget the things that I really do control, the places where I can take positive action and make a difference. If you find yourself out-of-sorts in the midst of our new normal during this pandemic, prayer can be a powerful tool to bring a little bit of peace into our lives. Prayer can help to crystallize what is most important to us, and it gives us the opportunity to stop long enough to remember that we are not alone in what we are experiencing.
I believe God is with us, yesterday, today, and forever. I believe God will see us through to that day when we join together to look back at this upheaval with the relief that can come only in hindsight. And I believe – I have to believe – in the light of the season of Easter, that life will always win over death and fear.