Unprecedented. It’s a word we’ve all heard a lot lately, and a very fitting one to describe the time that we are living through. A global shutdown of this scale has never been seen, and will likely never happen again in our lifetimes; yet as I’ve reflected on this time, I’ve been reminded of another lockdown I experienced, one of a very different kind, yet marked by the same feelings of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety.

On April 15, 2013, as a freshman in college, I was watching the Boston Marathon for the first time. That day, the streets across the city were closed off; people had flooded them to cheer from the sidelines. I spent the morning with two friends among other bystanders cheering and clapping for the dozens and dozens of runners that passed us every second. It was invigorating to witness these humans accomplishing a huge feat of athleticism and endurance. 

After a few hours of watching and cheering, my friends and I decided to go home for the afternoon. When I got back to my dorm, it was empty. Many of my other friends were still out at the race. Then I received a text from someone I hadn’t talked to in several months; it read: “Are you okay??” Shortly after, another text came in from my mom: “Are you safe?!” I was so confused. What was happening? I immediately checked Google and Twitter. There were a few tweets about a bomb at the Boston Marathon but very little information about what had happened or where. I tried to text a few people to figure out what was going on. Then my cell service cut out. I could do nothing.

The next hours passed slowly. Eventually some friends from my dorm arrived, bringing with them little bits of information that we pieced together: that someone had set off a homemade bomb at the finish line; that city had cut the cell service because the bomb had been set off by a cell phone signal, and they were attempting to prevent a further attack; that dozens were injured, and some were dead; that the suspected bomber was on the run and hadn’t been captured.

Fear and stillness settled over the city for the next few days; the city was put on a complete lockdown while the police were on a manhunt for the bomber. For three days we stayed in our dorm rooms, streaming news channels on our laptops, eating vending machine snacks, scrolling Twitter, trying to pass the time and hold onto hope. 

Though this specific moment in history is unprecedented, the feelings of uncertainty and fear have been felt throughout human history, in events big and small. I’m reminded of the disciples, locked in a room for three days after Jesus was crucified, with little knowledge of what was happening in the outside world, and no clear plan for what to do next. In the end, the disciples sat there and did nothing, and they were saved anyway.

Today many of us are physically holed up in our houses, waiting for the metaphorical break of dawn that will indicate that this nightmare is over. But in the midst of the night, doing nothing is what saves us. That’s how the Gospel works. We’re supposed to sit and do nothing because Christ does it all. He’s the hero of the story. Anytime we try to do something, we get in the way — the same way I would have gotten in the way if I had tried to help the police, or if I were to go to the hospital and scrub up to try and help the healthcare professionals. They would all tell me to just go home, and do nothing.

It’s offensive to our entrepreneurial, go-getter spirit. We want to start nonprofits and donation funds and social media campaigns. We want to help. Don’t make me just sit here at home — let me do something! But when the world is in its most fragile state, doing nothing challenges us to place our faith in the One who entered this fragile world to heal it.

Sometimes, we can even turn trusting into a thing we have to do to save us. If we just trust harder, deeper, it will save us. But look at the disciples — they were so scared, they locked the doors and shut the world out. Their hope was gone. And still Jesus appeared to them, busting through their locked doors and into their fearful hearts. It wasn’t their trusting that saved them or caused for Jesus to return to them — it was them doing nothing, and Jesus doing everything. 

On the third day, the disciples were released from their lockdown and assured of their hope. And in Boston, it was on the third day of our lockdown that the suspect was found and captured by police. The moment we knew he had been caught, the atmosphere had tangibly shifted — you could almost hear the collective breath of relief across the city. That night, we celebrated. People poured into the streets and began walking toward the Boston Commons, a large park in the middle of downtown. We walked over two miles along the streets, cheering with strangers, giving high fives, crying with relief. A collective spirit of celebration and unity had swept us up into a powerful moment, and a bond was forged that day that would be difficult to break. We all knew that Boston would never be the same after this event. 

It may be a while before it happens, but I eagerly await the moment of celebration when this virus has passed us by. In that instance, I hope we surround the nurses and doctors and other healthcare heroes with the same applause and cheers that we did for the police officers that day. Until then, my prayer is that we trust that doing nothing is what will save us in the end. I pray that we believe that Jesus actually can save us without our help.

Featured image: © Miguel A. Amutio