I still remember being in my 9th grade science class and my teacher turning on the TV while saying, “Remember this moment. Someday, your kids are going to ask you where you were when 9/11 happened. You’ll be shocked how you remember every detail.”
He’s right. I remember leaving English and seeing the panic on my teacher’s face as someone told her what happened. I remember seeing my classmates freaking out in the hallways and I didn’t believe what they were saying. I remember going to science and Mr. McGraw turning on the TV. I remember Edison Jr. High, the old desks, the blinds discolored from age and sunlight, and the green and off-white tile floor.
Now, here I am, 33 years old and living through another time in history that my kids will someday ask, “What were you doing during the coronavirus pandemic?”
My oldest child is 5.5 years old, so she may have vague memories of this time. It’s more likely that she will just remember the period of her childhood when her Aunt Ruth lived with us and painted her nails and played Old Maid than it is that she will remember the chaos of the world around her.
But my youngest… my youngest child is 19 weeks young, still in the safety of my belly. While we are still wondering if we’re having a boy or girl, someday this same child will be assigned in history class to interview someone who lived through COVID-19. He or she will ask what the world was like at this time, how we passed our time, were we scared… The same questions my generation asked when we were assigned projects interviewing Vietnam Veterans and people who remember the assassinations of Dr. MLK, Jr. and JFK.
It’s a strange phenomenon to know you are watching history unfold.
I wonder if others knew they were watching history unfold when it was happening? Did the followers of Malcolm and Martin know their social movement would be discussed for years to come? Did Rosie the Riveter, whoever she may be, know she would become an icon for working women everywhere? Did Esther know her winning a beauty competition would place her at a time in history that would be read, studied, and learned from thousands of years later?
There is no way of knowing which moments in our lives will become imprinted on those in our immediate surroundings and which will fade into the background. But, what we can confidently know is that the lives and lessons of those who have come before us are there to be learned from and applied so we can do better for those we are leading with every decision we make.
Take the life of Esther, for example. Will most of us ever find ourselves summoned by a king, judged for our beauty, and brought to live the rest of our lives in a palace of misogyny, gluttony, and polygamy? No. Most likely not.
However, Esther’s story is so much more. Esther finds herself quarantined unless summoned to flaunt her beauty, unable to directly communicate with her family, and without any freedoms she has previously known in her life. She lives a life entirely uprooted from all she has known.
The beginnings of this transition prove tough for Esther. She’s unsure how to handle herself and she plays by the rules because that seems the best way to survive. Aren’t we all a little like this? We follow what we are told as we find our footing, but get a little more brave once we are familiarized with the situation.
Then, suddenly everything makes sense. Esther’s placement is given purpose and all she’s endured fades away as she sees a bigger picture. The most famous verse of Esther’s story are the words of Mordecai encouraging her, “Who knows if perhaps you are here for such a time as this?”
Esther learns the unbeatable combination of careful planning, well-placed boldness, and faith in God.
Esther’s story of separation from the life she’s always known becomes one of purpose, bravery, and victory. We see spiritual disciplines that lead to direction from the Lord, courage that brings freedom, and hardened hearts turned from selfish desires to obedience.
Will this be the story of our strange experience with 2020’s COVID-19? Maybe not. Or maybe so.
Perhaps we are here for such a time as this… A time to learn the disciplines of silence and sabbath. A forced time to wrestle with the thoughts we’ve pushed to the back of our minds. A pause in our busyness to re-discover what true connectivity is and to value things we have taken for granted. A forced time without the gatherings we’ve at times complained about, but in their absence have come to appreciate. A time to silence our inner-critics and take up gratitude and thankfulness.
As I’m choosing how to spend this strange time in history, my strongest consideration is how I want to one day answer the questions from my children. Do I want to tell my kids that I let fear make my decisions or that I made the most of my time with them? Do I want to tell my kids that I looked out for just myself or that I did my best to love our community, too? Do I want to tell my kids that I discovered how weak my faith in God actually was or that I learned to cling to Jesus more tightly than ever?
My time in isolation may not result in something as epic as MLK Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the story of Esther, but the decisions I am making today can and will impact my tomorrow. Each day we spend in isolation will result in something my children remember as a time of fear or a time of family.
I don’t know how to live quarantine flawlessly, but I am committed to doing my best at living it intentionally.