Consequences

Spirit of Sound Mind

Who am I to be weighing in on the global debate surrounding the Coronavirus?

  • True, I’m a doctor—but the philosophical kind.
  • I’m also a mother of two who takes pride in the value of “building up immunity” by allowing contact with the germs and dirt of this world.
  • And I’m a planner who has therefore thought of contingency plans for a range of crises, including those of pandemic proportions.
  • I’m a Christ-follower, and one who’s been chomping at the bit to get to heaven…like, my whole life…as in, I have to remind myself regularly that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)…as in, I believe so strongly that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that I felt it necessary to start a blog about it. I. LONG. FOR. HEAVEN. PERIOD. I also firmly believe that God is forever on His throne—and that includes now, today, and in the months from now. All that is to say, I have no cause or inclination toward fear or anxiety over the thought of death as a result of this virus.

So I suppose it could be argued that I have no business at all throwing my two cents in on the topic.

BUT….and this is a big but…

Between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon of this past week, over the span of 24 hours, I experienced a drastic shift in perspective about the so-called “Christian” response to this virus.

It’s based on the ideas that we should be “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), that we should “look to the interests of others, and not only ourselves,” (Philippians 2:4), and that “God has given us a spirit of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), to name a few. But again, I’m NOT an epidemiologist. I’m NOT a virologist. I’m NOT a public health expert. So take what I have with a grain of salt…but hopefully with a grain of light, as well.

A couple of days ago, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t quite get it. I felt like maybe we were all overreacting just a bit. I mean, I wasn’t out licking subway polls, but I thought, “Of course I’ll go to church,” and, “Gosh, I really want to see the ‘I Still Believe,’ movie coming out next week.” But a few things intervened that caused me to begin wrestling with those thoughts.

First of all, I saw the responses of my friends living literally all over the world—Italy, Poland, France, Australia…they were responses of proactive caution, not panic or hysteria, but also not complacency or (God forbid) arrogance. I also saw the responses of the epidemiologists—yes, plural epidemiologists—that I know personally, and read the accounts they shared about how responding earlier as opposed to later might well shorten the length of time that we need to take these more severe measures. Doing so might also keep health care facilities from becoming too overwhelmed to provide needed care for those who become very ill, and by extension may save lives. And finally, I saw the responses of my friends who were adopting the attitude that all of the closures and cancellations we’re now facing are somehow tantamount to “extra vacation.” Well, at that I felt like I was looking into a mirror at my own calloused heart—and I didn’t like what I saw. I was disgusted—not with them, but with myself—and praise God, I was repentant.

Of course, we Christians have freedom from fear—but does that mean we should flaunt it? Does it mean we should cavalierly take others’ lives and eternities’ into our own hands by hastening their suffering, or their deaths? “By no means!”, in the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:2). If even one life or one soul can be saved by our actions, then isn’t that worth the inconvenience that comes from a little bit of social distancing and a few (okay, a lot of) changed plans?

You see, when my epidemiologist friends warn that school closures do not equal additional vacation, that this is not the time to visit the zoo, the museum, the park, the movie theater…not the time to have block parties or social gatherings of any size…I want to believe them. They are the experts, after all. Their math is far more reliable than mine will EVER be (says the qualitative researcher who only dabbles in statistics when it is ABSOLUTELY necessary). We MUST heed their warnings. We can’t wait to act until there’s “at least one confirmed case locally.” By then, it will be too late. Besides, if we stand with Moses in praying that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90: 10-12), and recognize that their entirety is but a handbreadth (Psalm 39:5), then what’s a few weeks of “lost time”?

Please don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Christians of the early Church, who according to Dionysius,

“showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and
ministering to them in Christ….Many, in nursing and curing others,
transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…”

And rest assured, if and when the local healthcare facilities call on laypersons to start doing field triage, I will be the first one to put myself in harm’s way for the sake of my neighbors. However, it seems that for the moment, the better part of wisdom and godliness is to help keep that demand under control in the first place, by practicing prudence (aka social distancing).

Certainly, as in Esther’s day, should we fail to act, “relief and deliverance…will arise from another place.” But who knows? Perhaps we have been brought to this place, to our positions, “for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Lord, let not one death from this virus be on our hands—be it directly or indirectly. Guide us in your ways and give us YOUR wisdom. Amen.

 

Wellsprings of Life and Deceit

Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”

Well, here we are. We’re about a week into 2019, and some have adopted resolutions, some have abandoned resolutions, and some of us have avoided resolution out of principle. Nevertheless, we probably do look out over the new year, casting visions and imagining what might come over these next 12 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if in your planning for the year ahead, you’ve heard, or perhaps offered, the advice to “follow your heart.” Lady Antebellum would put it, “Let your heart, sweetheart, be your compass when you’re lost, and you should follow it wherever it may roam…” Lauren Alaina would tell you to “trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle…” No offense to either of these, but this is just about the WORST advice EVER! Why in the world would you want to trust that which is inherently deceitful and untrustworthy?!

I’ve been reflecting on this lately, and in particular on Proverbs 4:23 and Jeremiah 17:9, and how they relate to one another. Somehow, in my childhood, I memorized this first verse in hodge-podge format. That is, my version is pieced together from several different translations of the Bible. The way I learned it was this: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And based upon this version, I’ve had a hard time reconciling the juxtaposition of this verse with the verse in Jeremiah 17 that refers to the heart as “deceitful above all things.” I think that is at least partly because of how I was personally interpreting “wellspring of life.” Namely, I was looking at that as positive—it’s the source of life, after all. That’s a good thing, right?

But in comparing different translations of the verse lately, I’ve seen that this may not be an appropriate interpretation—in fact, it’s most likely not. In my research, I—for the first time—discovered the CJB, or the Complete Jewish Bible. According to this translation, we must guard our heart above everything else, “for it is the source of life’s consequences.” That makes more sense. The Good News Translation puts it this way: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Each of these translations is more in keeping with Jeremiah 17:9 than is the BJV (the Brooklynn Joy Version).

So now we have something that is so powerful, and yet so deceitful, that it must be guarded, kept, and protected, with absolute priority. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find support for this interpretation. Proverbs 23:19 (NAS-1977) warns, “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 28:26 (NASB) suggests likewise that “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”

As I’ve wrestled with these verses, and with the temptation to despise the heart—almost as an enemy, I’ve had my heart softened by the analogy of a child. No, children aren’t inherently deceitful. But they are inherently self-serving and impressionable, are they not? Proverbs 22:6 (BSB) states that we should “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In just the same way, we must train our hearts in the way they should go, so that they will not depart from the path of the righteous. This must be our #1 priority—above all else (Provers 4:23). Because surely we want our hearts to follow after the true treasures that God has for us (Matthew 6:21), rather than the counterfeit ‘treasures’ that the world offers (1 Timothy 6:20).

So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever you do with your 2019, DO NOT follow your heart!

Lenten Blossoms