Shelter in place.
In other words, stay put. Don't move. Close the doors and hunker down and wait until further notice.
At first, it all seemed like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Weird, other-worldly, and slightly eery - but an episode with an ending, nonetheless.
But then we got the news that this would not be just be an odd, two-week blip. It would not be just an unfortunate interruption in our daily lives from which we'll soon return, shaking our heads and saying, "Wow, that was weird."
Instead, we've learned that there is no definitive end date to this pandemic, no definite moment that we can mark on our calendars to signify when we will be able to step outside, hug our friends, and resume our lives. For now the message is simply: shelter in place, and stay there for the foreseeable future.
And we are thrown off guard. Our plans are ruined. We are being asked to work in new ways. To communicate in new ways. To strip it back to the basics, to exist in a world between four walls and the confines of our own brains. And we have no idea for how long.
Some days, I have been able to accept it with grace. I have been able to look around the house and see Theo playing on the floor and Pablo napping in the sun and to feel as if this could be the new normal, and that I would be okay with it.
But other days, I feel my head closing in. My eyes burn and my brain is foggy from staring at a screen all day. My joints ache and cry out for movement. Sometimes Theo doesn't nap and I cannot catch my breath and I long for a friend or family member to pop in, to scoop him up and hold him and then to hold me, too. I crave a diversion, anything to remind me that I am not, in fact, a caged bird.
There are days when I have to push despair back with both hands.
There are days when my helplessness gives way to frustration, and then my frustration turns to anger.
On those days, the words I hear whispered into my heart are move gently.
When frustration swells up in my chest and I find my hands clenched into fists, I hear, 'Move gently.'
When I read news updates and email updates and social media updates and feel my mind is bouncing from one anxious thought to another, I hear, 'Move gently.'
When I wake up and feel the immensity of the days and weeks ahead, all blending into this strange new foggy reality and I want to cry out, "How long?" I hear, 'Move gently.'
Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is evidence that God is dwelling with us and within us. My bible defines it this way: Meekness. Humble disposition toward God's will. Not aggressive or driven by anger.
Gentleness means unclenching our fists and dropping the reins and recognizing we cannot control this situation. Gentleness means submitting all of our feelings of helplessness to God, rather than trying to deal with them ourselves.
So how can we move gently when we feel the agitation of 'sheltering in place?' Maybe the key is to let God be our 'shelter in place.' Our dwelling place. Rather than being confined to our homes and the dirty dishes in the sink and the anxious thoughts in our hearts, can we allow ourselves to dwell someplace higher? Someplace more holy? Someplace open and spacious and beautiful? Can we move gently through our days by allowing God to be our resting place from this weary, worried world around us?
This week, when we cannot bear being in our homes or behind our computers or inside our own brains a minute longer, let's try to move gently. Let's step from our confinements into the throne room of the King, and see how just sitting in His presence can set us free.
"Because you have made the Lord - my refuge, the Most High - your dwelling place, no harm will come to you." Psalm 91: 9-10