The Coronovirus Swamp- Seeing the Good Things God is Doing in a Scary Place
April 13, 2020
The Modern Pilgrim- A swamp lies between Pilgrim and the next leg of her journey. How to cross it?
When you think of a swamp, what pops to your mind? My mental images are a mash-up of Discovery Channel and science fiction movies. Snakes and crocodiles slithering in the water. A canopy of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Quicksand. Mysterious monsters who prefer wetlands. People with Cajun accents cruising boats effortlessly through secret swamp routes.
Our current Coronavirus situation feels like a swamp to me. One where I might get lost, or worse. Fear slithers around in my emotions. Based on the media, the virus is omnipresent, like swamp insects. Crocodiles of financial uncertainty glide along under the muddy waters, periodically surfacing to gobble up small businesses. And of course, there are the monsters of the unknown. What will our businesses be like after this? Our churches? Our country? Our health?
I rethought my prejudices about swamps though, when I studied them a bit. Yes, they can be scary and life-threatening. Did you know they can also be life-giving and lifesaving? If God can do that with a natural swamp, do you believe he can do that with the metaphorical Coronavirus swamp? I do. Here’s why, based on what I know about how God reveals himself in creation and what I learned about swamps.
Swamps are Wildlife Nurseries
According to the EPA, “wetlands shelter more than one-third of America’s endangered species. Without them “a number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, mammals wouldn’t exist.” Whoa. I wonder, could circumstances I see as life-sucking protect and create new things inside me? Could it be that God shut us all down in such a grand way because he saw holy qualities inside of us endangered, almost extinct? In our churches? In our marketplace? In our culture? Is it possible he’s trying to protect and nurture things within all of us that heaven values highly, so we come out of all this as different people?
Swamps Help Control Floods.
Swamps work like sponges, soaking up water that comes in with tides or from flooding rivers. They work better than floodwalls according to the Army Corp of Engineers. Maybe God placed our nation, and much of the world, here because he’s sending the flood waters of another Great Awakening. We surely need one. Many of us cry out for one in our morally corrupt societies, asleep from the poison of sin. Stuck as we are, in this swamp, maybe we can better soak up the waters of the new thing God is doing right now (and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s definitely doing something new).
Swamps Function as Pollution Filters
One scientist describes it like this: “If trees are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the kidneys.” Wetlands are crucial for clean drinking water as they filter out phosphorus, nitrites and heavy metals before water works down to underground reservoirs. Amazing.
What if God is using my time in this swamp to clean toxins out of me? Most of us are physically separated from all we love except some immediate family. Many are all alone. Others are exhausting themselves on the front lines also separated from much that made life “normal.” Wherever we are, we are looking at life and thinking about many things very differently.
Why don’t we let God use this time to do some deep cleaning? Maybe show us how to let go of patterns of toxic thinking, feeling and speaking, like easy criticism and grudges. They seem ridiculous in the light of current events. Or maybe, God is revealing hidden toxins swirling in your swamp, like fear and anger, brought to the surface by your present situation. All toxic stuff, either way. Let’s get rid of them.
Swamps are Fertile Farmlands.
Think far beyond the Louisiana bayous to the world’s wetlands where rice grows, a staple in half the world’s diet. Would these populations survive if something devastated wetlands worldwide? I think God is trying to re-grow some staples in the rich soil of my current wetlands. And he’s added some new ones. Staples that I will hold onto when my life becomes more public again.
Some of these are important items that should always be stocked in every soul’s pantry. Like prioritizing people over tasks. And then there’s newer, to me, staples I’m trying. One, I call my “Pocket Psalms.” My early morning walks are so quiet and unpeopled these days, I’ve taken to setting my phone to read the Psalms aloud to me while I walk. A charming voice in my coat pocket, reminds me of God’s goodness, faithfulness and greatness while I walk the empty streets.
We are living through historical events which we all struggle to adequately describe and understand. Hopefully this week’s swamp metaphor activates some fresh thinking about what God might be up to during these days. Do you want to merely endure this time or grow and change within it? I want to look and sound more like Jesus on the other side of this. I know what that looks for me. Do you know what that looks like for you? God will tell you, if you ask him.