We have never faced a situation like this. And it is difficult to know exactly what to say.

That’s why I was so glad I found some words to share from Valerie Kaur, a Sikh writer, who has begun a movement called The Revolutionary Love Project. She says:

“What I wish for you is stillness. The blistering pace of the pandemic, the cacophony of commentary, the relentless barrage of breaking news without rest kills the root of our own wisdom, our ability to think clearly. It drives us to act on fear and panic — to hoard, to ban, to isolate, to self-protect, to act on racist impulses.”

And as I see stores with no toilet paper or hand sanitizer, when I hear stories of gun stores selling out, we see that fear and panic played out on an immense scale. But where will such hoarding and isolation lead us? Valerie continues:

“But this is a time to gather the facts, then get quiet and summon our deepest wisdom — and let that wisdom lead us. For we have difficult choices to make in the coming days.

This pandemic will test who we want to be, as individuals and as a people. Will we succumb to fear and self-interest? Or will we double-down on love?

Will we let social distancing isolate us? Or will we find new ways to reach out, deepen our connections, step up community care, and tend to the most vulnerable in our communities?

Is this the darkness of the tomb — or the darkness of the womb?”

We can choose how this moment and this time will define us. We can choose whether we will be governed by fear or governed by love. Paul offers practical advice on how we move forward with each thought: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) As Valerie puts it, “I believe this is a time to love without limit. This is a time to see no stranger. In doing so, we gather information for the kind of world we want, where no one is uninsured or disposable, where our policies and public institutions protect all of us.”

This does not mean that we will not be scared. This does not mean that we will not feel anxious. But we do not let ourselves be stuck in that anxiety and fear.

“And if panic or grief or rage seizes you suddenly, it’s OK. It means you are alive to what is happening. The work is to breathe through it. It becomes a dance — to panic, then return to wisdom; to retreat then find the courage to show up with love anyway.”

In the end, Valerie compares this to birth: seeing this as the darkness of the womb. But if this is a birth, if these are indeed labor pains, we remember what every woman who has given birth will know: Breathe and push. Breathe and push. Breathe and push.

So I leave you with her last words to sustain us in this darkness:

“Breathe, my love. Like any long labor, we are going to take this one breath at a time.”

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The Rev. David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at pastor.david@conyerselc.org.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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