“This is ri-di-culous!”, she sputters.

It’s Tuesday morning. In less than 38 hours, all New Zealanders will hunker down indoors for at least a month in a bid to quell the rising Covid case count. It’s our first ever lockdown. As if to incentivize the retreat, Dunedin temperatures have gone glacial. 

A middle-aged woman pulls into her local supermarket. Locking her car, she eyes the line of people snaking out the entranceway. Each of us is a dutiful metre apart. The doors are guarded by a pair of security guards in high-vis vests, lifting a barrier each time someone exits to allow the next in line through. 

She is not impressed. 

Taking her place in line with a friend, their conversation is audible from where I’m standing. They’re discussing how silly people are to be stocking up. Those waiting behind them who are stuck in the rain? Serves them right. 

I exchange smiles with the Indian bloke behind me, and he jokes about tomorrow being the end of the world. We watch as a teenage girl who’s just left the store returns and shyly addresses the security guards. “Can I get you guys a coffee?”. They decline, but they’re obviously chuffed.

When crisis crescendos

We’ve seen quite the kaleidoscope of human nature these past weeks. Folks looking inwards, fretting only over what affects them or their loved ones. Others looking out for friends and strangers alike. Others still look up, clutching onto confidence in God amidst the chaos.

I’ll admit it. While the coronavirus was limited to China, I looked on with detached concern. How terrible, I thought (subtext: for them over there). 

Then came the global spread, and with it, the stockpiling and shut downs. A week ago I watched footage of a squabble over toilet paper in a supermarket with a mix of horror and amusement. The panic seemed so ridiculous, the screaming shoppers animalistic in their animosity.  A few days later I wasn’t smiling when I found the bread shelves bare at our local Countdown. Never before had a 40-pack of toilet paper looked so irresistible. 

Does anyone else feel like they’re reeling from whiplash? The moment you think you’re up to speed with the facts, then whooooop! There they go changing. Yet. Again. Our news feeds are crammed with updates, opinion pieces, press clips from world leaders. Airlines are culling flights left right and centre. The stock markets are plummeting. The death toll is rising. In a matter of weeks, our vocabularies have stretched to include ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’, and ‘flattening the curve’. And now, even lil’ ol’ New Zealand has joined a spate of other nations in lockdown.

What are the implications for our future? For our studies and jobs? For Action Groups, discipleship, outreach? For long-awaited events and family visits? For making ends meet? Both the present and future seem up in the air, more so than ever before. But they’re also laden with unprecedented opportunity. Could it be that in God’s sovereignty we have been placed in our contexts “for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). 

A wise man once said to “start with the end in mind”. 

Imagine yourself getting to the end of lockdown, whenever that turns out to be. What do you want to be true of how you spent this stretch? Who are the people you want to intentionally connect with while homebound? What daily or weekly habits are going to help you do that?

More than anything, how can we love like Jesus and continue to make disciples in the time of Coronavirus? 

Love looks like tarrying.

How can you intentionally anchor yourself in the bigness and kindness of God right now? What are your favourite ways he’s shown up through turbulent times in history? Now’s the time to treat Jesus’ promise to “be with you always, even to the very end of the age” like a blanket on a chilly day. 

God’s not stressing over circumstances. And for you to be a non-anxious presence to others, you need to tarry a while in his non-anxious presence. 

Some ideas to spark thoughtful action. 

  • Love looks like interceding.

Headlines can prompt panic, apathy, or prayer. Why not let them inspire unrushed conversation with God? To quote Martin Luther, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It’s laying hold of his willingness.”

  • Love looks like obeying authorities.

We honour God and our neighbour by acting on government directives about social distancing and personal cleanliness. It’s not glam, but sometimes love looks like physical space and not taking creative licence with our interpretation of ‘solitary’ outdoor walks.

  • Love looks like pursuing creative connection.

Offering security guards coffee is clearly off the cards now, but love isn’t limited to shouting strangers drinks. How are you prayerfully discerning ways to look out for others that are both selfless and appropriate? 

Maybe it’s putting a note in your nearest neighbours’ letter boxes that invites them to contact you if they need a hand getting groceries or if they just want to chat.

Maybe it’s skipping an episode of whatever series has captured your heart to commiserate over FaceTime with the friend whose relatives won’t be visiting over the Easter break after all.

Maybe it’s making the most of opportunities to congregate on Zoom. To share our struggles face to *2D* face. Lament our losses. Be heartened together through Scripture and song. Chortle over our favourite COVID-19 memes. 

Maybe it’s taking a leaf out of my mate Hannah’s book. She may be homebound with a newborn in Manchester, but she recently took to Instagram and invited anyone feeling anxious or isolated to chat with her online, even if it was just to play battleships. In her words, “so long as you don’t mind greasy hair and a crying baby, we’re good!”.

Maybe it’s being that little bit bolder, leaning into opportunities to speak of the hope and trust we have in Christ with others who may be fearful. Friends of yours who’d never normally set foot in church may be way more open to streaming a service from home. That’s what my mate did with her little brother’s girlfriend last Sunday. Both loved it.

Maybe it’s *you fill in the blank*.

I know that some of us are wrestling with how to encourage or lead those around us when, despite praying and listening to sermons, we’re still scared. Or overwhelmed. Or plain ‘screened out’! If that’s you, then you’re in good company. Better to confess our anxiety and frailty to one another and keep bringing it to Jesus together than put on the ‘fearless Christian’ mask. This way, weakness can actually become an avenue for intimacy with God and others. Whatever qualms you’re carrying right now are an invitation to draw near (yet again!) to God and community, to “share each other’s burdens and in this way fulfil the law of Christ”. 

So why not ask yourself now: what choices or rhythms will help you lovingly look to Christ and look out for others over lockdown?

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all… and he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

What has God been putting on your heart while reading this article? What ideas do you have for loving others like Jesus over lockdown?

Extra Inspo:

Grace Mackenzie is a Dunedin-based Fiwi (Fijian-Kiwi) on the Student Life national team. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she delights in quality company, wordsmithing and anything that involves caramel.