by Angie Copetillo
Twelve days ago my family and I blissfully headed out West for 10 days of camping, hiking, and off-roading adventures in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. I had been giddy-as-a-school-girl before leaving, sharing my enthusiasm with some of you at the last PPO meeting. It had taken so long to align all the schedules to make such a trip possible. And with Daniel, our college senior, graduating soon, we also knew it could well be our last traditional family vacation. Our time together was all we had hoped it would be, with a few camping woes and mishaps that true adventure and true novice bring.
Looking back though, the memory of it will not be the epic mud-bogging at my dad’s ranch in Wilcox, AZ or the challenging, cliff-hugging hike up to Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, or the other-worldly surroundings of Death Valley. Likewise, the flat tires, mud-pit drenches, wind-ripped RV awnings, cliff falls, pitch-black-night camp set-ups, sewage sagas, and lost camping gear will likely fade from memory. What will forever remain is the quintessential question soon to become historic: Where were you when COVID-19 hit?
No doubt, for many of our juniors and seniors, the answer to this question will be bittersweet: We should have been in Italy and Greece. Bitter because they missed a trip of a life-time with precious friends. Sweet because hindsight being what it is, we now know what God potentially spared them from in Italy.
No doubt also, the answer for our dedicated teachers will be bittersweet, as they spend their spring break working through the unknowns and uncertainties of online teaching, thinking of and praying for their classroom “kids”, missing them but grateful to still connect in some form.
“I will miss them!” said middle school science teacher Christine Darulla. ”My relationship with them is what I love about what I do. And it is so hard to teach without the interaction.”
Our teachers simply amaze me in how they have totally readjusted their norms in this situation and creatively figured out, on the fly, how to teach digitally.
Of course, the consequences of this pandemic are still unfolding. The “where were you when COVID-19 hit” question won’t have the specific moment-in-time precision of 911 or the shuttle explosion or Kennedy’s assassination. But still, the time in which this pandemic transformed from an overseas blip on the radar to a concerning, life-as-we-know-it-changing reality was remarkably rapid.
We watched it on the face of Mayra at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. The expansive lobby stood nearly empty. We had never visited this place before, but you could tell by the vast space and the roped lines designating crowd management, that this lobby was normally hopping. Mayra waved us forward from the rope, and by the time we arrived to the desk (at a safe distance) you could see in those 15 seconds, her face had changed. In 15 seconds, she had scanned the opening lines of the just-delivered company memo that went something like this: we will close the hotel beginning tomorrow at noon. Fighting back emotion with a brave, professional face, she explained the memo and apologized. “I was really holding out hope, you know. I don’t know what we’ll do.”
She took a deep breath and slowly, mechanically took a long time to work through the check-out procedures. Noticing Abby Grace’s Armstrong Youth Orchestra t-shirt and telling us stories about her boys who played saxophone and trumpet, she went on to tell about returning to her own play and practice of the viola. “Just don’t quit,” Mayra kept advising Abby Grace (AG). Looking pensively at AG, she nostalgically said again “It‘s worth it to just keep at it. You can’t quit, promise?”
Mayra was processing the news. We were there watching this kind stranger in the midst of a very vulnerable moment. “It’ll be okay,” she tensely smiled. “We’ll just have to call the mortgage company.”
Mayra was one of many we encountered that day – an Uber driver who expected to be out of work by the following week, our bellman who encouraged us with his sunny jobless outlook, the Christian school IT director. I don’t know that there were even any COVID-19 cases in Las Vegas when we were there, but everything was happening so quickly out West.
Three days later, both of our college boys were out of work as well, as their downtown Athens, GA restaurant closed. No different than the service workers we encountered in Vegas, our boys rely on their restaurant income to pay rent and sustain their livelihoods.
The impact will be different for all of us. I have heard from friends but can really only imagine the ongoing fears of those in the medical fields.
It’s enough to overwhelm even the most optimistic among us. EXCEPT, and it’s a mighty EXCEPT, we serve an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God.
I never cease to be amazed at the real power of Scripture. And no matter how many times it changes me, when I am really struggling, I still manage to doubt it. My instinct is to want to fix the thing myself. I can become so absorbed in my own fears, doubts, anger, and frustration, that I doubt. But meditating on God’s Word, literally changes me. May this pandemic cause us all to fall to our knees.
There’s this invisible thing, this coronavirus, out to destroy. We cannot see it. We don’t know where it is. We can’t find it. But we know it is there. Such circumstances can create such helplessness. It is in this powerlessness where Our Lord Jesus shines the most, because we are out of the way.
This word encouraged me this morning:
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his
kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Paul David Tripp encourages us to use an appropriate level of concern to lead us to wise preparations and decisions but to not let fear overtake us.
“Giving way to fear is characterized by meditating on the trouble we are facing and forgetting God in the process. This fear reveals itself when we allow our minds and hearts to be controlled by what was initially appropriate concern,” says Tripp.
Instead, fear God. Tripp continues, “This is a holy reverence of the Almighty, living in awe of, and submitting to, the King of the universe.”
In our few moments out of the wilderness, I never expected to encounter Christian neighbors in our brief time in Sin City. It so reminded me of our unity in Christ. Our position in Him never changes. The Almighty, the King of the universe – we can always rest in knowing where we are with Him.
As the pandemic continues its path, creating its unknowns, may slowing down remind us where we were, where we are, and where we will be.