The current predicament of our country brings a whole new meaning to the word “coronation.” It’s hard to believe that a nation that won its independence from what was, at the time, the most powerful empire on earth; survived and remained united after a terrible civil war; helped the world win a world war against oppression and fascism; split the atom and sent the first man to the moon, is now all but completely paralyzed due to fear — fear of a virus, a disease.
Call it what you will — caution, prudence or simply trying to be “considerate” and prevent the disease’s spread — fear by any other name is still fear. You tell your children not to stick their finger in the fire, not because you’re being “cautious” but because you are afraid, you have fear. Your fear is that the children will burn themselves. But out of that same fear, you do not tell children they should never, ever even go near a fire. You tell them to be careful, to be wise, and to not get too close, or they will get burned.
As for this new virus, that we’ve advised people “Don’t get too close” is a colossal understatement. How about “Don’t get out of bed”? Does anyone honestly think this will be the last major outbreak of an unknown virus or other disease on this planet? What do we do next time? Close off all the air-conditioning vents and seal all the cracks in the walls of our houses?
Wyatt Emmerich’s column in this past Friday’s Commonwealth (“America must get past panic”) was very timely and made a very factual point that some people may have forgotten: that is (unless you believe as I do, the Lord Jesus Christ could return first), we are all going to physically die, and some of us from diseases. It could be this new virus or cancer or heart disease (such as I have) or trauma. There are only so many “categories,” but we are all going to fall into one of them. Very, very, very few people die peacefully in their sleep at age 95, simply because their bodies just wear out from old age.
I believe the statistical average life expectancy for men in this country is about 76 years; for women, it’s about 79. I realize that I have lived more than three quarters of my life here on this earth, but that’s OK. I don’t have a death wish, but I also know that my body is going to die, and it’s getting closer to that death every day I live. I’ve heard it said, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.” The physical death of our bodies on earth, though, is the only way we’re getting off this planet — to Heaven, if that’s where you’re bound in the end.
God’s word says many things about life and death that even Christians take for granted or often forget. One of those is that before we were born, God had already determined how many days we would live, down to the very last one. Jesus, when He was here on earth in His human body, told us that by all the worrying in the world, we cannot add even a single hour to our life.
As Christians, we also need to remember that the Lord tells us that He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. In using that sound mind, I’m not going to drop into a hospital ICU full of patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but I also don’t want to live even one valuable day of my life all “bunkered down” in fear, waiting on the federal government (of all things!) to sound the “all clear.”
So, should most of us, who are very likely not even going to be exposed to the virus, much less contract it, be immobilized from living our lives, working at our jobs, gathering together to worship? For fear of what? That we may die?
And be honest: We’re not refusing to gather together because we’re afraid we might cause someone else to get the virus. That sounds very noble and righteous, but the truth is, it’s because we don’t want to get it from someone else who has been exposed to or who may even have the virus and not know it. It’s all right if you’re afraid, but at least be honest in experiencing your fear.
My only real fear in all of this, though, is that this virus is not the worst this country, our “Coronation,” will ever have to face. Because if there is ever anything worse, my fear is that we’ll never survive — at least not as a nation worth living in. And there are some things worse than death.
I believe a life lived in fear is one of them.
• Clint Guenther is a Greenwood attorney.