Gene and I went to Lowe’s a couple of weekends ago. It was a mish-mosh of some people wearing masks and others walking around like they had never heard of the coronavirus. This weekend we went to our niece and nephew’s high school graduation party. My sister did a great job of staggering when each family came and all the activities were outside. But I got to tell you, when I first arrived and saw some people closer to each other than I am comfortable with, I kinda panicked. Gene and I took seats away from the group as I looked around to assess what felt safe to me. Again this was no reflection on my sister at all. Everything was great, but I have been home for the better part of four months so figuring out what felt safe to me took a few minutes.
Moving forward each of us must decide how we will do life in a way that we are comfortable with. The rub comes as we do life with other people living their own belief system about what is safe. What we believe about this virus is immediately evident in our appearance and behavior, and that can be polarizing in our relationships if we let it. Most other personal life choices don’t keep us from being with each other or are not as visible as a mask and six-feet distancing. We must be careful to be respectful and loving no matter what.
How do you respond when you are invited to a friend’s house for coffee—on a rainy day so you can’t sit outside?
When you’re invited to eat out at a restaurant?
To any number of the usual spring/summer events—parties, showers, cookouts, etc.?
What about the summer plans you have already made—camps, vacations, get-togethers?
What about when the host cancels the event or you feel you need to cancel the event?
There are no right or wrong answers here, but responding , even to close friends and family, can be hard. We can know how to graciously respond and graciously receive others’ responses.
Below are six attitudes and actions that can help us preserve and nurture our relationships while we are in this strange and crazy time.
Show grace—In the Old Testament God’s graciousness is defined as “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior, to favor, be merciful.”* God definitely stoops to be in relationship with us. How do we show that same grace or a similar grace to others? We do not stoop to be in relationship with others because we are somehow higher than they are. But we are finding a common place where we can connect with the other person. We are merciful and gracious to the way they believe in this situation. We show them favor by doing so. Again this is never from a place of superiority. We are in this together, linking arms and encouraging each other.
We need to agree to disagree—Essential for all relationships always. We are not always going to agree on everything. Especially now, with an issue that is this serious and this divisive, allowing an issue to come between us erodes relationships. It may be helpful and healing to say to the other person, “I respect your choices and let’s agree to disagree.”
Release each other to God’s care—No matter the position they have taken. In any of life’s circumstances, we never have control over our loved ones’ safety. This situation is no different. God has us—no matter how we are responding to the virus. In 2 Timothy 1:3-4 Paul is writing to Timothy and talking about how much he misses him and can’t wait to see him so he can be filled with joy. I hear you, Paul! I miss my people too! Right before this statement, he tells Timothy he prays for him night and day. What a wonderful way of caring for others—praying for them always and releasing them to God’s care.
We can never go wrong with love—I love John Piper’s explanation of love in his book, Don’t Waste Your Life. “Love is doing what is best for someone.”** Even though we think we know what is best, the only person Who really knows is God. And God is the only person Who can affect real change in someone’s heart, mind, and life. Pray God’s best for them. A friend recently shared how she prays favor and blessing over people. That’s where it’s at—inviting God’s interaction in our lives.
Release control over your own life to God. From the beginning of time, man has wanted what he wanted and he has done what he wanted to get it. One of the things we cherish is time with our people. We can’t be with many of them right now and it hurts. And what makes the pain worse is that we don’t know when we will be able to be with them. This is the hardest part for me. I must remember God is in control. He has me and He has you. He has our friends and family. He loves us so He will do what is best for us. He has the whole situation. I am most at peace when I rest in God’s sovereignty and love, and live one-day-at-a-time.
Here are a few verses to encourage us to release control of our lives over to God.
Isaiah 46:4; 64:4
2 Chronicles 16:9
Doing your best to nurture those relationships. Don’t let this come between you and a loved one. God did what He needed to do to be in relationship with us. He sent His Son to live on earth and die for us. We may not be able to do relationship the same way we have in the past—at least not now. But as God and Jesus as our inspiration, we can find creative ways to nurture our relationships.
The most important thing in this pandemic is growing in relationship with God and loving others. And that means we lean into our relationships in creative ways no matter our beliefs.
*Strong’s Concordance, page 53, entry 2603
**Don’t Waste Your Life, By John Piper, page 33
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.