By Stephen W. Hiemstra
As I write this morning (5/19/2020), the rate of increase in corona virus deaths in Fairfax County, Virginia and other places has begun to decline. Worldwide rates of increase in daily deaths that were at the end of April in 2 to 5 percent range are now in the 1 to 3 percent range. Calculus students will all remember that a maximum is reached when the rate of increase in change falls to zero. While this pandemic is clearly not over because we still do not have effective tests, treatments, and vaccines, these figures are encouraging.
In our family, 2020 is likely to be remembered as the year of the cook. Part of the pleasure of becoming reacquainted as a family has been a new found interesting in cooking shows, cookware, and much better meals. No gap between millennials and boomers has emerged in this trend. We are not only eating better, we are eating more healthy. Who would have thunk that a vegetarian dish could actually be tasty and filling?
Our relationship with technology has obviously changed. While I have participated in at least four Zoom conferences a week, my wife, Maryam, has learned to teach and interact with students online. Virtually every church now has an online service through Facebook, YouTube, or a streaming addition to their website. Many churches now also offer telephone worship for their seniors who are not tech savvy. Now that these skills and investments have been made and proven effective, it is likely that they will remain in service long after the pandemic is behind us.
As an author, I have noticed an increase in book sales. Because I write about Christian spirituality, this trend suggests that people are starting to pay greater attention to faith.
Phases of a Transition
A transition is a period of change consisting of three phases: beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning of a transition, one realizes that things are different but look backwards to the way things used to be. In the middle of a transition, no clear direction is apparent and uncertainty reaches a fever-pitch. In the end of a transition, the end of the tunnel is in sight and one begins to sprint towards it.
In early March we began this pandemic transition practicing a low of panic and believing that this crisis would last only a couple weeks. From mid-March until early May, we found ourselves in the middle phase where uncertainty, denial, and anger were readily obvious. This last week we began what will be a lengthy end phase to this transition.
The end phase is distinguished by the widespread appreciation for the need for testing and the development of vaccines and treatments. It will be a long end phase because appreciation of what needs to be done is constrained by the technical details of actually producing the required tests, vaccines, and treatments.
The biblical transition most often discussed is the Exodus of the nation of Israel out of Egypt which was followed by forty years in the desert and entry into the Promised Land. In spite of the drama of the Exodus and the entry, it was the forty years in the desert where the people of Israel discovered their faith in God. In the middle of the transition, with all its uncertainty, we innovate and discover whose we really are.
A persistent question over the past couple weeks has been: how much of the faith and serenity of my grandparents arose because they lived through things like the Spanish flu, two world wars, and the Great Depression? We live in a similar season of trials and temptations—will we learn similar lessons? If so, which ones?