The following was written by Rachel Allen.

In this ephemeral life, sometimes we are graced with moments so beautiful we wish we could inhabit them forever. For me, the end of my first Jon McLaughlin concert was one such moment. As the show drew to a close, Jon rose from the piano, picked up a guitar, and stepped down from the music club’s small stage.

He positioned himself toward the center of the room, and there, surrounded by perhaps two hundred rapt audience members, began to sing one final song. I knew it from the first note: “We All Need Saving”—one of my favorites. The lyrics were simple yet poignant:

When the cloud in the sky
Starts to pour and your life
Is just a storm you’re braving
Well, don’t tell yourself
You can’t lean on someone else
Cause we all need saving sometimes.”

Across the room, people swayed in time, and I felt my throat swell as I sat there among so many strangers, all of us united in that instant by the profound truth of one beautiful song.

Months later, as I wash dishes in my apartment, the same song comes on. It is early April, and the last month has launched me and billions of others around the globe into a crisis. Worldwide, over two million people and counting have contracted the COVID-19 virus, and more than a hundred thousand are dead as a result. Around the world, businesses have been shuttered, schools closed, events postponed or cancelled altogether, and citizens ordered to stay home to slow the disease’s spread. Concerts like the one I attended in October seem like a curious relic from a distant past.

As Jon McLaughlin’s voice fills my apartment, I want to cry once again, this time from the sheer hopelessness of this whole mess. Some call the pandemic a judgment upon humankind, a punishment for our many sins. Some frame it as a blessing, as though affixing a neat label on these disordered times can set the jumbled world right again.

We are characters trying to interpret the story as it unfolds around us, and our limited perspective makes it likely we will miss the meaning. While we may believe our divine Author is at work to fit this dark chapter into the grand saga of history in the best way possible, we are not privy to exactly how he will bring it all together. Despite our ignorance, however, we cannot help looking for some way to make sense of it all.

There at my kitchen sink, I listen to “We All Need Saving,” and I wonder how I ought to understand the story. I think about this notion of salvation, its nature and scope, and the deep need for it.

Certainly, we long to be rescued from the physical threat of the virus and from its far-reaching consequences—the disruption of daily life, the collapse of financial stability, and the derailment of long-awaited plans among them. But the truth is that we needed saving from a more fundamental sickness, illustrated by our tendency to preoccupy ourselves with the virtual world and shut out the real one around us. Often, we treat people like props, only keeping them in the picture as long as they suit our purposes. We shout our own viewpoints from the rooftops and block out all dissenting voices. We live however we want, regardless of whether it is best for ourselves or those around us. We are all infected with this disease, and this time of widespread physical sickness makes that fact even more apparent.

There will always be the type of people who hoard hand sanitizer and the type of people who ignore public health warnings. But in a very real sense, social distancing and self-quarantining have made it impossible for us to keep going as we have been. We literally can’t go out and do whatever we want whenever and wherever we want as we are so used to doing. As we evaluate our habitual selfishness with a new sense of clarity, many of us are turning away from it and toward a way of life marked instead by self-giving.

Indeed, such selflessness may be what rescues our communities from this seemingly interminable emergency. Amidst the devastation of this pandemic, we see glimmers of the beauty of self-giving as people around us live out the lyrics of that song I love so much.

Say what you will
But the time that we fill
While we’re on the earth
Should not be alone
We were meant to be known. . . .

Well, don’t tell yourself
You can’t lean on someone else
Cause we all need saving
We all need saving sometimes.

Young tenants in apartment buildings are offering to run errands for their neighbors who are more susceptible to the virus. School districts nationwide are providing lunches for underprivileged children for whom school closures have meant the loss of their most reliable source of food. Corporations are adjusting production within their factories so they can manufacture desperately needed medical supplies instead. Through it all, medical professionals and essential workers such as grocery store employees, truckers, and custodians are keeping necessary industries running, knowing full well that by remaining in contact with the public, they are opening themselves up to the possibility of infection. This selflessness takes a variety of forms, but each act reminds us that, as isolated as we may feel in our own houses, we are not alone.

As self-giving helps us through temporary crisis, it also points us to the salvation from the greater catastrophe of the condition of our souls. Our ultimate salvation is found in Christ, who gave of himself to rescue us. Even though we do not understand every part of the great human story, we know this one part—that our Author himself has stepped onto the page to become our Savior.

In October, Jon McLaughlin will be in town once again, finishing what was supposed to be the spring half of the tour I saw last fall, which had to be postponed because of the virus. I am hoping desperately that the world will be normal enough by that point that we can go a second time. If we do, I hope he will conclude with “We All Need Saving” just like last time. I will sit among a hundred or so strangers, reveling in the freedom of simply being there and unafraid to be so. And I’m sure that, as he sings, I will find myself in tears once again as I listen to those beautiful words and think back to this awful moment, now only a memory.

We all need saving—and we still will, even when this passes. Once it does, may we continue in what we have learned to do during this time of distancing: to notice one another’s needs and help in any way we can. In doing so, we point others to the best and most beautiful act of self-giving in history—Jesus’ death on the cross, by which we all are saved for good.