There’s a walking trail down the street by my apartment that’s lined with fields full of wildflowers. I went out for a walk tonight, and now that it’s mid-April the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes have mostly gone to seed, except for a few tenacious hangers-on. The fields that were lit up with color are now tan and brown; Texas’s spring glories have given way to fuzzy pods. It’s not pretty, but a flower’s biological purpose, after all, is to bear fruit that bears seeds that grow into more flowers that bear fruit that bear seeds, from the sun’s first rising to its final going down. The flowers stick around for a month or so, and then they’re gone.
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Today’s the fourth Thursday that I’ve been in isolation, more or less. I’ll go on walks, and I’ll pop in to the store. I got bored and stir-crazy enough the other night that I drove a full lap around the 610 loop, and it took me less than half an hour, a phenomenon that will never happen again. I’m thinking about driving around the Beltway next (after all, they’re not collecting tolls right now).
It’s been hard to concentrate on work. My brain and body think that since I’m home, my tasks are to clean or watch TV or make dinner or sit on my porch or in the bathtub and read or scroll through Instagram. This isn’t a space for spreadsheets and Zoom meetings, it’s not where I’m supposed to be checking my assistant’s time sheet.
The last person I hugged was my friend Camille, after doing a shift along with some other dear ones at the Houston Food Bank. We figured we’d see each other in a couple of weeks. That was over a month ago now.
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It’s the Thursday after Easter and Jesus is risen from the dead and we can sing hallelujah again. And yet every Easter sermon I’ve heard this year acknowledges that it still very much feels like a season of death and grief. If we are not mourning loved ones’ physical deaths, we are mourning the deaths of hopes, or not being able to meet together, or the losses of jobs and incomes, or the continued deepening of political divides, or people being harassed or beaten because of the way they look, or the spotlight on the social inequities that have always been there.
And what’s worse is that we don’t know when this season will end. There are no solid answers. When can we go back to work? Should we be wearing masks outside or not? Oh, wait, people can spread it even though they’re asymptomatic after all? This can kill young people after all? We’re in the middle of a crisis, and there’s no end date in sight. This all sucks.
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There is, I confess, a tendency in me to believe that this is a judgment on us–a judgment on our broken societies. And maybe for some, it is. But I am neither a prophetess nor the daughter of one; I have no word from the Lord to say one way or the other. But I do know and trust in this: That even God’s judgment is not divorced from God’s love, and that He has not abandoned this world. Maybe now He’s letting all our glory and self-sufficiency go to seed. “The grass withers and the flowers fade,” says Isaiah, an actual prophet; “He knows that we are but dust,” says David; “unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone,” says the Lord Jesus, the prophet of prophets. Maybe our flowers fall and the seeds get pushed and plowed into the ground so that we can grow again, life upon life upon life.