Love, connect and give: 3 ways to thrive
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana
One word: Surreal.
That is what this past week has felt like for us all. In just one minute, everything changes. We are asked to self-isolate for two weeks if we’re feeling ill, and now we are to practice social distancing. And fear moved it. Fear is like a smoke-screen, blinding you and rendering you breathless.
Among the news reports and social media posts, we weave in and out of fear, denial and even anger. The Coronavirus is a gauntlet of trials. In this blog post, I’d like to explore how we can embrace love in a time of fear, lean into connection in a time of isolation, and move towards generosity in a time of gathering.
Every single day brings with it new opportunities, but also fresh challenges. The Coronavirus will forever mark 2020, and the world is about to reset everything. The way we do life is changing.
Since creation, events like this have marked times and nations.
Around 430 BC, not long after a war between Athens and Sparta began, an epidemic ravaged the people of Athens and lasted for five years. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 100 000 people.
The Black Death (1346-1353) travelled from Asia to Europe, leaving devastation in its wake. A bacterial strain spread by fleas on infected rodents was said to have wiped out over half of Europe’s population. It was so severe that they buried the bodies of victims in mass graves.
My Scottish great-grandfather died in the 1889-1890 flu pandemic. It’s part of our family’s story. I found out recently that he was buried in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This flu pandemic killed about 1 million people. It took just five weeks for the epidemic to reach peak mortality. The virus spread rapidly throughout St. Petersburg before it quickly made its way throughout Europe and the rest of the world. This happened even though air travel didn’t exist yet.
There were other pandemics, but now in 2020, we face something new.
How will we as humankind respond? How will you live now that everything has changed? The one thing I learned after experiencing a traumatic armed robbery is that when something dramatic happens, you can never go back to how you were before.
The way you see the world has changed.
My question is this: During this time of social distancing, can you maintain emotional health and physical strength? How can you thrive as you adapt?
Embrace love in a time of fear
Ever since I was young, I keep circling back to living a life of love. I don’t always get it right, but it’s something that occupies my thoughts. I keep on asking how it is possible. Love quietens our fear, it calms our racing hearts, and it settles our souls.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4: 15-19
In a recent devotional, Pete Greig, wrote this: Everywhere I look right now I encounter fear. The news is scary. There is fear in peoples’ eyes. But the apostle John says that God’s ‘perfect love drives out fear’. The Greek word for driving out here is ‘ballei’. It’s the same word used of Jesus driving out the money-lenders from the temple, and casting demons out of the oppressed. It’s forceful. Love doesn’t just soothe our fear. It isn’t polite. There is a violence about the way it kicks terror out of our hearts and minds. It’s important to face the facts, even when they are scary, but even more important to focus on the ultimate and enduring reality of God’s love.”
What does practical love look like today?
It might mean being extra kind to that family member that irritates you. Or even giving yourself room to grieve a few things. How can you be love in action today?
Lean into connection in a time of isolation.
Now, this can be tricky. I noticed that it is far easier to look into a little screen than intentionally engage with my family. I adore my children and husband, but it’s far more enticing to get caught up in the latest news, comments on social media and happenings out there. This challenge to lean into connection speaks to me as much as it does to you. Today, I choose to engage more intentionally with my family (and even play more with my two Scotties). I will choose to put my fingers in the soil and garden, sit outside and listen.
Just yesterday, my husband, Neil, commented: “Look at this chameleon. It’s amazing what you see and hear when you are still. When you watch and listen.” Let us slow down enough to become aware of our breathing, of the surrounding noises, of the needs of our family and friends. And let us reach out to those we can.
Move towards generosity in a time of stockpiling.
A friend forwarded a video of her sister in California walking through a grocery store where the shelves are empty. On social media, I notice posts about how being able to self-isolate or practice social distancing is more accessible for those who are wealthier. What about those in townships or crowded communities…life is that much harder and perhaps scarier?
What can you do to practice generosity of heart? This thought continually challenges me. My accountability action is to find out about the local initiatives in my area and get on board. Would you like to join me? Wherever you are in the world, reach out and give.
Offer to buy food for anyone you know who is at higher risk. Reach out on your community WhatsApp groups or contact your elderly neighbour and offer support. Take a step towards generosity and see what will happen.
If you have any ideas about how to practice these three rhythms, I’d love to hear from you and learn from you. Please send me an email or comment below.
P.S. If you’d like to journey on a three-day devotional, then click on this link. I wrote one for YouVersion, and it’s free.
Images courtesy of Unsplash and info about the pandemics from https://www.livescience.com/worst-epidemics-and-pandemics-in-history.html