One thing has become very clear as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grip the world’s attention: Life as we knew it is over. Things we once took for granted such as shaking hands in greeting, congregating in large numbers for events or even standing right behind someone in the supermarket or matatu queue, are no longer viable if one wants to stay healthy. On the other hand, we are having to engage in activities we never imagined when we ushered in the new year with so much excitement and hope.
I have been telling friends that I’m slowly becoming a Ruth of all trades since my family decided it would be better not to have our housekeeper commute to and from her home. I have had to learn how to strip, clean, chop and cook pumpkin leaves (I enjoy eating them but never had to prepare them). I’m also having to prepare sukuma wiki for cooking from scratch – a task I usually try to avoid at all costs. But these are not usual times.
Just the other day, the children and I transformed into clothesline mechanics when the kamba for hanging laundry broke just as the last batch of clean clothes was being hung. It was a mad scramble trying to get the clean clothes off the ground before they could gather dirt and have to be washed all over again. And of course with the housekeeper away, we have also had to set up a cleaning roster to keep our home from looking like a disaster zone. The biggest challenge has been sticking to it.
But perhaps the most revolutionary thing I have done so far is manage my own hair. Following a YouTube tutorial the children recommended, I actually retwisted my own micro-locs. After that, nothing seemed impossible! A few days later, I bought hair extensions and braided my daughter’s hair after she washed it herself, and retightened my other daughter’s dreadlocks. All these are services we have been paying for as “essentials” for many years, but now we are rethinking things as we learn to DIY (do it yourself) or DW (do without).
Home life aside, the unprecedented havoc this disease is causing around the world has taught me lessons that I hope will last me a lifetime. Here are some of them:
I am not in control
Watching medical experts, heads of government and general populations scrambling to do everything they know to contain the coronavirus, one thing has become abundantly clear – we are dealing with something that is bigger than us. This is a disease that has spread relentlessly regardless of how much money we have in the bank, how many academic accolades or corporate titles we can boast of, how much influence we wield or how wide our networks are.
Surely, God Almighty has taken the wise things of this world and rendered them foolish, and taken the foolish things and made them wise (such as simply staying at home and washing our hands!). When man reaches the end of himself, there’s only one place left to look – to the hills from where his help comes.
Trusting God keeps anxiety at bay
The ripple effects of this pandemic are being felt by everyone everywhere. Personal and household incomes have been hit hard because people can no longer engage in normal, income-generating activities. People are wondering how they will pay rent and buy food; employers are worrying about how to pay workers; business owners are fretting over repaying bank loans when there is no business coming in…
If we do not have something (or someone) bigger than ourselves to hope in at such a time, then life can become extremely uncomfortable. I am very grateful to have a heavenly Father to whom I can turn with any fears and anxieties. Indeed, I cannot imagine facing such a huge disruption without God on our side. And He is faithful – I have been able to experience peace of mind throughout and also seen His hand of provision as I seek Him in prayer again and again. This leads to another important lesson:
The body of Christ must keep in touch
With all gatherings, including church services banned, it is very easy for people to feel isolated, lonely and lost. Thank God that at such a time as this, we have technology, which is making it possible for Christians to continue meeting for prayer and fellowship, and to share encouraging messages from around the world.
It is these virtual gatherings and refreshing messages that are helping the body of Christ continue to feel connected to one another and to be reminded that we are not alone and that we are called to be light and hope in the world. If ever there was a time when the message of the gospel was needed, it is now.
My faith will be tested in different ways
The first test is for us to respond in a way that is different from the world. Fear and anxiety have been threatening to take over through all the information flying around on social media from Christians and non-Christians alike. One message, posted on a church women’s ministry group read: “The Lord is in control. Keep praying. But stock up in case of panic buying…”
This to me was a contradiction because it seemed to suggest that it was my own efforts that would save me from the situation. But even if I wanted to “stock up” as the message advised, the money required to do so was simply not available.
Initially I was irritated by such messages from Christians, but I eventually had to allow grace to take over, remembering that we are at different places in our Christian walk. Trusting God to meet all our needs is a test believers are facing, especially because we do not know how long this situation will last.
Another test comes from the command to love one another when things get really serious and people can no longer buy food and other essentials for themselves because the money has finally run out. Will I be willing to share my last packet of unga or sugar with my neighbour or would I rather keep them for myself? And If I choose the latter, how will my neighbour know that I am a disciple of Christ?
Life is all that matters
Life as we knew it is at a standstill. Those “important” business meetings, the work or leisure trips, the property deals, shopping for cars, clothes and shoes, even weddings and funerals are no longer counted important enough for a gathering!
Given a choice between these activities and the chance to avoid contracting Covid-19, we have all chosen life. That is why we have agreed to use hand sanitisers, wear masks and stay indoors. That’s why we’re keenly observing the news to learn what else we can do to stay alive.
So perhaps the biggest lesson is that we must focus on what is really important – leaving behind great legacies born out of our relationship with God and one another – so that we can make our short time on this earth count for something.