Now What? On the President, the Pandemic, and Love

Our Circumstances Change Our Devotions — Whether We Fail or Succeed

Duo Dickinson / 1.20.21

I remember downtown Buffalo, silent, in the evening, sometime in 1972, before church bells fully and loudly tolled the end of the Vietnam War. I remember my parents telling us of postponed Christmas Parties in the heat of August 1945 after VJ Day. I know how we felt at the end of pregnancies, the graduations from schools, even just the end of Christmas each year. The ending of things can feel like relief or disappointment, or both at the same time.

For four years, about half of us have been fully immersed in “RESIST” (Donald Trump). That ends now. The other half of us have been as immersed making American “Great.” They are now fully committed to “RESIST.” All because of Inauguration of the next President. Today.

For an entire year the world has been consumed by COVID-19. We have all been saving ourselves, judging others, trying to avoid death by following a pandemic’s arc. Everyone has taken sides, at least a little. We have felt justified by our beliefs, knowing they were fundamentally correct. That will end with a couple of injections. In months. The Constitution worked, and Science will end a pandemic.

We have a new President. We will soon not get COVID-19. Now what?

The pink knit caps and embroidered red baseball hats are now put away, sad justifiers of meaningless devotion. So much of this year, these four years, has been spent in fear, virtue-screaming, anger, joy, and simply acting out the worst in us — all for the righteous meanings. Now, gone.

Now what?

We are all the same people we were four years ago, or before the pandemic completely changed our circumstances. And try as we might, that sameness will stay with us despite what we think are transformative realizations. Win or lose, we remain the same.

Now what?

I was always, well, fat, save the few years I played football. I then grew to be Really Fat. At about 50, I lost 1/3 of myself, becoming, well, less fat. That devotional self-salvation did not change me when I became less. Now I am less fat than I was after the initial fat dump, but still not Really Fat. But in all these literal ups and downs I am what God made me. No matter what weight the scale shows.

Our circumstances change our devotions — whether we fail or succeed. Our appetites are indulged, or denied, but we are who we have always been, because we did not make us. We cannot fundamentally modify the reality of what we did not make. We can be thinner, richer, educated, even win an election, but we end up where we always were.

We are God’s Children. But in all this tempest, few (often derided) had faith. Very few. Most of us gave in to the frenzy of the moment, our anger filling the cartoon characterizations of fascists and socialists inveighed on those who were different from each other. Many of our lives were overcome by fear and anger, and the joy of lives saved overcome by death.

Now what?

When the Vietnam War ended, the church bells rang across Buffalo to mark the change of time from war to peace. After Inauguration Day, some will still fight, whether justified or not, because that is all they know to do. But most of us will not fight. The fear of COVID-19 will abate. Fear and anger have a half-life, but everyone benefits from understanding.

I understand that I am alive because of miracles I cannot understand. Surviving presidencies or a pandemic can be laid upon the credit ledger of our correctness, or we can know that all of this is God’s doing.

If the masked or mask-less, pink or red hat wearers, Christ- or atheism-devoted might acknowledge that we are all from one stem, one reality, one truth — that we are all human — then hate would not have a chance. Instead, for many we are either Nazis or Communists. I think that we are all here, the same.

Right and Wrong are the results of living. There is Good and Evil. Evil must be fought. Good must be central in our lives. I lost weight. Our children survived. Democracy seemed to work (for now). Most of us did not get sick. We all can win, but we all lose, too. God is there in all this. He does not judge, but loves. You. Me.

I can hate at the drop of a mask, and I find that it is harder to love through it all. But I know that God loves me. That’s what’s next and always has been.


Image credits: Matheus Mari, Shaouraav Shreshtha, and Xuan Nguyen, on Unsplash.