I’m pretty sure Thursday, March 12th, was the day we all stepped into an alternate reality.
That morning I woke up knowing I wouldn’t be going back to school for a while. My school had moved our classes online as of the 11th. It was cloudy and rainy and cold in New York. Quite dreary, as one of my professors would say. I went to my friends’ apartment to sit through our Principles of Biblical Interpretation class together.
My friends, who had all been pretty hopeful and positive, had all of a sudden switched their tune, saying they were all leaving the city the following Monday in case of a lockdown. Not knowing what I should do – because going home to Colorado is quite different than going home to New Jersey – I called my Aunt.
I decided to stay in the city. But the uneasiness and anxiety I felt only grew as my friends continued discussing what could happen in the city if the outbreak continued to spread.
Returning to my apartment, I hoped for some peace and quiet so as to finish (begin?) a midterm paper due that Saturday. But peace and quiet were not to be found in 15M.
In the midst of the chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety, my roommates decided to go downstairs to the new 7eleven which just opened around our corner. 7eleven was having its grand opening despite the world burning around us. There were balloons arched over the doorway, with blaring speakers and a spinning wheel sitting outside. Inside mirrored the same strange energy outside as staff members were smiling and cheering. We all got free Icees and walked back home, having experienced a brief reprieve from our anxieties.
But the minute we stepped back into our apartment, the burning continued. NY Governor Cuomo called a state of Emergency in NY, Mayor DeBlasio called a state of emergency in the city, a gathering law was put into effect limiting gatherings to 200 people or less, Broadway shut down, and all of the concerts my roommates and I had been looking forward to were canceled. It was a lot.
To make matters worse, one roommate got a call from her mom telling her to hop on a bus right then and there and get home because everything was about to go on lockdown and get really dangerous.
While that roommate packed, my other two roommates and I decided it might be prudent to run to Target and stock up on some food… just in case. Target was packed with people ransacking the shelves. There was practically nothing left. On the walk home, a friend texted me saying another friend had heard from his dad in congress that New York was scheduled to go under a lockdown that next day.
When we reached home, my fourth roommate had finished packing and was running out the door to catch her bus. Once she left, the apartment got eerily quiet. The city was still dreary and cold. The apartment felt clammy and nothing felt real.
The days following Thursday also felt like a trippy nightmare, but the sun eventually came out and hope returned. The city did not go on lockdown and the country was not placed under martial law.
Even though the anxiety lessened, I decided to fly home on Monday. I don’t know when I’ll get to go back to school.
Despite stepping into an alternate reality on March 12th, I keep remembering Psalm 91 which my Aunt prayed over me as I stood on my friends’ balcony while the wind howled around me. “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” (Psalm 91:9-10)
One of the deacons at my church said in my Community Group Zoom call on Wednesday that this crisis can be something that gives us all PTSD in a year, or we can choose to steward this time well and look back knowing full well that God was in control and that we trusted him. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather know I stewarded this time well.
My friends and I have been talking (over Face Time, obviously) about how this time of social distancing could be really good. God literally interrupted every plan I had for spring break and the rest of the semester. Spring break, which I had originally planned to use as a time to serve myself and hang out with friends, had been shifted to a time of seeking God and his peace.
Now that my spring break is over and I begin to go through the motions of this new normal, I am asking myself how I am choosing to steward this time well. How are you choosing to steward this time well? How are you choosing to seek God with all this new free time? Let us as followers of Christ make it to the end of this time knowing we glorified God in everything we did.