When my son Timothy was about two years old, he loved to look for anthills on summer walks. We often would find some supersized ones when we strolled in a nearby river valley park. Tim would delight in stirring up their mound with a freshly plucked branch so that he could watch the commotion that ensued. Dad too looked on with fascination, our eyes fixated on the pile of dirt teaming with millions of miniscule armored bodies and legs scurrying to restore their habitat into its former glory.
I was reminded of this image at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Our world was unexpectedly turned upside down. Daily routines were disrupted, vulnerabilities exposed, and the slide towards a catastrophic future seemed a real possibility. Governments, communities, agencies, and churches leapt into action, though, responding with focus and urgency. Efforts were made to coordinate initiatives and to work cooperatively. Partnerships were forged, strategies devised, and plans implemented. Sure, there were disagreements along the way, as there always will be when people are forced to unite under pressure in order to work towards a common end. Mostly, people and groups doubled down on their collaborations and the challenge was met. The coronavirus still lurks in the background of all that we do, but some measure of order has been restored through our working together.
I find it amazing how a country as diverse as Canada, made up of people with a wide range of perspectives and convictions, can find common ground and connection in times of desperation. While our differences threaten to tear us apart at times, some deeply embedded instincts seem to surface and draw us together, or even call us together, when our shared security is threatened. We whose modus operandi favours selfishness and self-centeredness are moved in mass to selflessness and other-centredness. Donations surge and volunteerism abound in times of great need. Where, may I ask, does this deep well of good will come from?
I cannot help but reflect on the Christian understanding that people have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1: 27). While we know this image has been tarnished by sin, some of that goodness seems to be embedded deep in our makeup. The Psalmist reminds us that “[t]he LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Ps. 33: 5). As intended image bearers, we too were created to love righteousness and justice, and we too have an innate longing for unfailing love.
During this unsettled time in our world’s history, we have a great opportunity to identify, affirm and celebrate the actions and work of people that align with the heart of God. Not only that, but we can also point to Jesus as the example to follow and the means to realize our intended purpose and fullest potential. Let us look on with fascination at our community’s response to the challenges of this time.