It was April of 1992 and the Los Angeles riots were erupting in the blocks surrounding my house. Breathing in the smoke that enveloped our neighborhood, was painful to my nose and throat. My mom gave me a wet washcloth to hold over my face to act as a barrier.
When my Dad left the safety of our house armed only with a garden hose to defend his place of business from arson, the fear and intensity were overwhelming and I fled to my room.
Although my fourth grade understanding was limited, I knew something big was happening. The only thing I could think to do in that moment was to grab my vinyl, heart- adorned journal and document. Covering my face to ease the sting, I wrote as if the whole world was going to burn down around me and all that would be left to tell the story would be my written words.
Spotted with teardrops, I can read that entry today.
Scribed in elementary handwriting, I had done my very best to bear witness to the chaos.
These days, I feel that same insatiable compulsion to document.
I can feel the history unfolding around me. As Covid-19 seeks to burn the world down, we are each sequestered to our respective houses to do our part to slow the spread of the virus.
Grocery stores and hospitals have become ground zero for the virus. Human beings have been hurled into the impossible, and we are being overwhelmed.
Every time we leave the house we run the risk of exposing ourselves to the virus— to contracting it ourselves, or to carrying it to someone else.
Our faces and hands feel vulnerable to the unseen.
We have begun to cover our nose and mouth with masks. We are reduced to wide eyes as we shuffle through our “essential” outings. Gone are the reassuring smiles of strangers.
Never before have we been less visible. Confined to our households. Faces and hands engulfed in protective coverings.
I am privileged to set up camp in a secure home with my three kids. Yes, my husband is deployed and I fly solo right now, but I am relatively untouched by the effects of the virus.
These times feel unbelievably big, and yet my world has become quite small. Our days are rolling one into the other in seamless cohesion.
Never before have we as a culture been more invisible. And yet, at the same time, never before have we been more— exposed.
The tangible distractions to which I was was once drawn are now kept six feet away. That which I once relied upon to keep the rhythm of my life going has been silenced. Anything extra has been stripped away.
“… And the foundations of the Earth were laid bare.” (Psalm 18:15b)
The foundations of the Earth are being laid bare.
In the span of one month (largely over the season of Lent), the world as we have known it has been painfully uncovered and thrust into a revelation. The foundations of our lives are ruthlessly uncovered. The masks that have comfortably conformed to our features over time, are being ripped from our faces. That which has held us up, is recoiling as it squints in bright sunlight.
The air is clearer than ever. The Earth is breathing again. It is time to take in the view. To see truth, no longer veiled by smog. To take a hard look at our foundations.
Our crutches. Our idols. Our jumbled priories. Areas in our live that we have taken for granted or advantage of. Our habits. Our privilege. Our lies. Our biases. Our corrupt systems. Our utter lack.
The unseen is being revealed and we are left— exposed.
Our natural tendency is to kick into survival mode. We hoard. We hoard information, supplies, food— we do this so we can continue on in our gluttonous consumerism that has been our comfort. Anything to avoid feeling empty. We go numb. We binge. We drink. We text. We scroll.
I use the communal “we.” I have done all of these and more.
We cling to our colorful wrapping and ignore the tearing, the intense peeling of our layers. The unwrapping. With rubber gloved knuckles we cling to what we are still yet allowed to touch.
Because if we were to let go—if we were to stop trying to gorge the emptiness away…
If we were to allow the buzz to fade and the emotional novocaine to wear off and begin to let the feelings loose. If we were to let the exposing happen. It is very possible that with a great jolt, would come the realization that despite the relentless consuming and clinging we are actually starving, and lacking.
We are a ravenous people. And we have been cut off.
It is time to think about the unseen.
If everything were to burn down around us, what would we have left? This virus is ravaging our world. We can no longer live in the pipe dream that we are untouchable, and that our actions don’t affect others.
While this planet is taking its first full breath in a long time, these are the times to think beyond humanity itself and to consider the unseen.
Let us consider the divine. Let us consider the supernatural. Let us entertain the idea, if only for a moment, that perhaps there are parts of our foundation that are actually harmful to ourselves and others.
Because It is in the unseen, deep in the inadequacies of humanity, that foundations are made solid. Where bravado has no place. In our weakness, the divine inevitably steps in, and our inner core is stoked and strengthened by the air of revelation. Then we can rebuild. We can emerge better.
Make no mistake, I do not believe that this pandemic was caused by the divine, nor is suffering ever His “will.”
But heaven help us if we waste the devastation caused by this virus. If nothing good comes out of this. The cry of my heart is that we emerge a better people. A better church.
One thing that I am coming to know, even as I melt down in my very literal closet is:
I have never felt more seen.
The doorposts and windows of my house glisten with common kitchen oil made holy by my hidden prayers. I ask for protection over my home and those within its walls. As I move through my house, covering every entrance to the outside in oil and prayer, I call out to the unseen for deliverance from the unseen— a ragamuffin’s beatitudes spill out.
Seen, is the mother that cries in the darkness of the closet.
Seen, are the scientists, who diligently search the unseen for answers.
Seen, are the students. The cheated and the scrambling.
Seen, are the deployed and those they leave behind.
Seen, are the lonely and alone.
Seen, are the unemployed and uninsured.
Seen, are the masked brave. Whose eyes do not have the luxury of turning away from death.
Seen, are those that are dying alone.
Heard, are the prayers of the fearful.
Blessed is the repentance of the pious.
Blessed are the prayers of those that have never before prayed.
The foundations of the earth are laid bare.
It is in this place of the stripped. From the exposed. Where nothing is hidden.
This is me bearing witness to the fires that rage around me, and to the unseen.