This one was written by Greg Gelburd.

It could be a dark planet on Star Trek, but alas it is instead a micro-particle (almost as tiny as the mesh in my N95 mask) that is causing havoc on the blue planet. Side-by-side, two hundred of the viruses would be almost visible.

As we socially isolate physically and hunker down in the home, we are reminded of similar situations in history. The night bombing of London in WWII, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917, and the original Passover which I remember best from the film The Ten Commandments. All brought us inside to hide.

Webster says we can “hunker down” to seek protection or to achieve something. Originally the Scots of the 18th century hunkered down on the balls of their feet. We have couches, yoga mats, kitchen chairs, maybe gardens. I say we can fulfill both definitions: hide from the virus and find new levels of trust in Christ.

Nonetheless, in Reverend Paul Walker’s “Almost Daily Devotional” this morning, he encourages us to find the same contentment St. Paul found in prison. Am I in prison though? A week into this imposed isolation, I find much contentment and am frankly surprised.

If I turned on the TV news, or if I sought online news, which I actually haven’t done for a few years, I would most assuredly fall prey to the hype or just be totally freaked out by what is really happening.

Instead, what I seek is both medical information and connection with myself, with my family who is scattered around the country and with friends around the world, some of whom are refugees. The latter, who are confined to a Greek island, tell me of a far deeper crisis. The former guides me in my medical practice, the latter opens up many new doors of perception into my relationships with my family and friends.

Though I was only brave enough to do a technical rock-climb once, on Hanging Rocks in North Carolina, high on hashish and wearing a pair of boots two sizes too small, I learned a few life lessons. The obvious: don’t try this again. The second: “exposure control.” While hanging on the side of the 100-foot cliff, I knew that if I looked down I might lose my cool and freeze. “Typewriter legs,” my buddy called down to me as my legs began to shake.

Exposure control is that state of mind when we know there is danger lurking, but we ignore it. We don’t look down, we don’t look too far ahead. When running a code in the ER, I ignore the situation’s emotional context while almost mechanically running through the exercise in hopes of saving a life. Existentially, we know that should we think TOO MUCH about our life-trajectory, we might find fear hiding behind the next turn of the calendar page.

Yes, I could freak out. I could worry about things like, “How many months could this go on?” and “How many more pandemics will there be in my lifetime?” and “How can I deal with a 25% loss in my IRA when I’m just a few years from retirement?”

Instead, I am being covered by the Holy Spirit, His comforter, the one Christ promised us in John 14:16 (in Greek, parakletos), who guides in all truth.

I also know not to trust or listen to the committee of voices who wake me at 3AM shouting about the tragedy soon to occur in the entire world. Years of practice and suffering have given me that great gift of CBT—no, not CBD—but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which tells us that we are not our thoughts.

My morning ritual, reported in an earlier Mockingbird article (January 2017, a few days prior to our president’s inauguration), remains a gift, upon jumping or climbing or falling out of bed, a strong cup of Joe and a sit, for as long as an hour if the Holy Spirit, the comforter, should decide to take me out on many journeys.

So my friends, fret not about tomorrow, consider today and only today. Yes, indeed, consider the birds of the field. In our solitude or company of family or socially distant friends, we open our hands, palms up, to receive guidance on what it is we should do today or could do today. And we wander around our house (new travel plans, people: not the map of the world but the map of the house or apartment—no need for Expedia, just wandering into corners we don’t normally sit in, looking as if anew at a piece of artwork on the wall) or seek the wonder of our hearts and minds and souls. What I tell myself and my patients is, “This is not a quarantine. This is a retreat, a spiritual retreat. It is a gift from our Lord who is always seeking more time with us.” I believe our Lord is saying, “Yo, what does it take to get your attention? Okay, all you who are asking for manna for tomorrow when I’ve given you plenty for today, I’m going to create another plague, make this number 11, a little virus, not a frog or a fly, and I’m going to ask you to sit at my feet, my beautiful creatures, and listen intently to me, my words, my loving spirit. I’m going to give you my heart and all its secrets.”

I find new energy in doing nothing. I’m not 68. Now I’m 8, a little boy, playing with a soccer ball by myself in the backyard, working on my garden fence with no time constraints, or playing with my three-year-old grandson and another Titanic re-enactment (see the analogy here?), or in the new sandbox he and I and my wife Kathy put together yesterday.

Tomorrow may find me more frantic, another phone call from a friend/patient who may have Covid-19, going down that story with him or her which may lead to testing or isolation or a trip to the ER. For now, I am thankful He walks with me in quietness. He, Henri Nouwen, C.S. Lewis and my friends like Pastors Paul Walker and Geoff Mauer, who also keep their eyes above the fray.

Lastly, if it is true that we can only get Covid-19 once, and this remains unproven at this moment, we survivors (yes, most of us will survive this infection), may wear an S, not the original Scarlet Letter A, but S for Safe. It is safe for you to be around me and me around you.

Contentment, hunker down, parakletos, Covid-19, world panic: the virus is not first, nor is it last, not yet anyway.