A short mailbag from myself, in which I answer three questions I have with a level of certainty I decidedly do not have. Let’s get into it!
Brad, are you worried about Covid-19?
– Brad from Grand Rapids, MI
Hi Brad, great question. I generally carry some anxiety in my body, and that anxiety is definitely still there. But it feels different at the moment—almost like it’s been immobilized. It’s not stagnant or festering; it’s just around. Let me attempt a metaphor: my anxiety moves like a watchman in the night. It remains on guard and observes things closely, but so far has had no reason to act or sound the alarm.
When it operates this way, I feel I can manipulate my anxiety or worry into curiosity. I know, I know, curiosity is somewhat of a buzzword right now, but it’s helpful in making a paradigm shift, and in checking myself. Am I scrolling endlessly through a news feed because I’m engaging my curiosity? Probably not. Is the virus even something worthy of my curiosity? Now, that’s a good question. Truthfully, I don’t think so. I’ve read the symptoms, and I’m current on proper sanitation measures. What’s left for me to be curious about? I’ll leave that to the medical professionals and direct my curiosity toward more worthwhile pursuits.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m jettisoning my curiosity about a good theological reply to the situation. Or my curiosity about how to act in the midst of all this. Or my curiosity about fostering relationships well right now. And I’m definitely not throwing off my curiosity about YouTube highlights of past NBA games. That’s in full effect. So Brad, I suggest you pour your time into good things, and, like me, channel your anxiety into curiosity about those good things.
Brad, do you think communication technology/social media is a lifesaver in this moment?
– Brad from Grand Rapids, MI
Yes. And no. Let’s tackle the “yes” first, since that’s easier to explain. My extended family held a Zoom conference yesterday. I saw the smiling face of my grandparents and heard all my cousins laughing together. I wouldn’t be able to do that without the technological resources at our disposal. I’ve heard many stories, as I’m sure you have too, of families using Skype or Facebook or Zoom to communicate with a loved one isolated in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. I’ve seen churches meeting over Facebook Live and midday prayers shared on YouTube. In a few of those scenarios, maybe our communication technologies are literally lifesavers.
Also, now is the time to carry a lot of grace for one another as we utilize the strengths of our technologies. No one has any idea what to do, and we’re all trying to use what we’ve got to make things work.
What about the “no”? Hear the wise words of my good friend: “It’s like we all (myself included) feel permission and license for social media to rule our lives instead of lamenting the way it does that already.” It’s true that our current situation was tailor-made for the benefits of social media, but it’s equally true that we can use that as an excuse to overindulge.
I also wonder if prolonged time on social media intensifies our loneliness or isolation. Spencer Kornhaber says it well in an essay in The Atlantic: “Sitting in isolation watching someone else’s isolation, it’s not hard to overanalyze.” Overanalyze our lives, our jobs, our accomplishments, our homeschooling techniques, our pastoring chops, our social distancing success. We have a tendency to turn aggressively inward in a time of self-isolation, and social media has hardly ever been a balm for a soul turned in on itself.
Brad, will everything be alright?
– Brad from Grand Rapids, Michigan
Brad, I think you know certain words from Julian of Norwich that will answer that question for you. Find them again.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.