Love in the Time of COVID-19

I’ve lived eight weeks with the knowledge of COVID-19, but until the NBA suspended my beloved season two nights ago, I thought of it as a faraway problem. I’m not proud of it, but losing the NBA brought coronavirus dripping to my doorstep. Like, on the door knob. Like, caught in the foamy white corners of every mustache at the grocery store – not that anyone would picture it that way.

And since Social Distancing – a strategy that hasn’t been used against me since 8th grade, has become the most effective way to starve the virus, I feel suddenly separated from my fellow humans. And if I’m honest, I can tell I’m having some feelings about the whole situation because I keep opening and closing the freezer; I keep taking long gazes out the window. And from what I can see on social media, I’m not the only one.

It’s not that I think we’re all gonna die, I just wouldn’t mind hearing from someone who could console, or at least interpret the competing anxieties that might be cropping up inside us right now – whether it’s guilt for not caring about the suffering of others, shame for not self-educating about the exponential spread, fear or denial about what might happen, frustration toward citizens and officials for panic or indifference.

I’ve heard Fear brought up more than once, and so far, that word does not resonate with me. For one thing, if I’m afraid, I’m unaware of it. Maybe it’s Fear that’s making me stare out the window, but I’m obtuse enough where if you tell me I’m afraid I’m going to want to fight you about it.

And what’s really not helping is the advice to stop being afraid. That suggestion is popping all over the Internet and it ranges from: “Relax, everything’s gonna be OK,” to: “Calm the eff down,” to: “Stop choosing your Fear instead of trusting God.” One pastor even implied that I love my Fear, that maybe I want to worship it and would sacrifice my faith to do so.

Maybe someone somewhere needed to hear that? I dunno. But it sure wasn’t me. To me, that felt like shame. And shame is not on my list of emergency supplies to outlive this pandemic.

I’ve been contemplating Fear in the hour since my kids fell asleep, and it’s their faces that best show me Fear because they haven’t masked or renamed it yet. What they do is run or roll into me if it’s the Nighttime Monster again. They whimper, “I’m scared Daddy.” They squeeze their little arms around me and press their noses into my skin. Then they take a deep breath of whatever my body smells like after it’s been chasing them all day, and you can feel the tension uncoiling from them, just from breathing me in.

I think that’s the most proven way to weaken Fear – to name it, to race toward the strongest person in the room, to breathe in their presence until their love for you pushes all Fear away. It’s weird because that’s kinda the opposite of how to kill COVID-19; if you want to kill that virus you’ve gotta be alone.

They say Perfect Love casts out Fear, and as a dad, that kinda makes sense. I bet a lot of us could use that kind of Love right about now – a Love that didn’t shame us for being too anxious or panicky or afraid or frustrated. A Love you can roll toward, can breath in, can carry to quarantine in your pocket. If you’re wishing for a Love like that, I’m pretty sure it’s available, even if you’re alone. The easiest way I’ve found it is just to look out the nearest window, beyond the faraway clouds, and say, “Dad, I’m scared, hold me.”

Merry Christmas: There’s No More Shame On You

On December 17th, 2019, Bethel Church prayed for a toddler to rise from the dead. The next day, December 18th, 2019, President Trump was impeached. Do these two events have anything in common? Not really. 

Except that they happened during the 12 Days of Christmas. And they’ve incited separate but equally polar reactions among American evangelicals. 

This holiday season, if you love Jesus, you can argue with another Christian about how Jesus would define morality in American politics. Or, if you prefer, you can debate faith healing and the sovereignty of God. And since it’s happening exclusively online, it’s kinda hard not to read along:

“Well Fred, it’s clear that you support religious oppression and murdering the unborn.” 

“Watch out Doug, your lie-cheat-steal, bully-oppress-abuse, ‘morals’ are showing.”

“Frankly Susan, if God cared to be THAT sovereign He’d stop you from using someone’s tragedy to promote your toxic theology.”

“Radical faith offends the unbelieving heart, Donna.” 

If I was fast enough to fire off a saucy one-liner I probably would have already. Unfortunately, my brain is drowning in Christmas carols, so all I can do is imagine a slideshow of snarky Christian v Christian comment threads, only they’re set to the loftiest Christmas anthems:

“…The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…” 

“…Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations…”

“…Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray…”

“…Peace on earth, good will to men…”

All that anticipation. All that promise that Jesus’ arrival is the shift humanity has been longing for. The contrast makes me grin. It’s easy to remember the big picture in theory – like how the world has been suffering, how sin has been winning for far too long, how our own minds can be so quickly darkened by fear and pride, how Jesus’ arrival establishes a new Kingdom that isn’t threatened by death or earthly power… 

But when the death of an innocent baby leaves our stomachs curdled with grief and longing, or when the impeachment of an American President stirs our most visceral convictions about right and wrong – it’s almost impossible to remember that the message of the incarnation is that this short-term chaos is not the Kingdom that Jesus has invited us to invest our hopes in. When I forget that, and I often do, it’s easy for me to speak sharply to other Christians because it feels like I’ve got a dog in the fight. After all, I’m aligning myself with God’s perspective and they should be too, right? 

Listen. This is not a shame-on-us piece. It’s the opposite. The miracle of God-made-flesh is that a love so magnificent has obliterated our shame; a Kingdom so irresistible has comes to us again and again and again – as many times as we have forgotten which Kingdom we belong to and why.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we Christians speak unkindly to each other is because we still carry the remnants of our own shame without meaning to. I still feel it if someone says I should be ashamed of myself for my political or theological convictions; and I’m always inclined to fling that shame back in equal or greater measure. 

But when my spirit is connected to the incarnation – to Jesus’ coming to make all things new – myself included, all that shame residue falls away, I lose the impulse to fire back at my fellow Christians, and I get to live inside of the safety of His eternal Kingdom – even when the world around me is uncertain and out of alignment.

So this Christmas, when I sing about baby Jesus in a manger, I’m going to try to let the love of God come reach me – wiping out my shame for the thousandth time, allowing me to show His kindness to those who have not yet learned how to let go of their own shame.

Merry Christmas. There’s no more shame on you.

Ladies of New York

Dear Ladies of New York,

Hi! My name is Matt. My wife’s name is Dani. We have two sweet boys and live in a cozy 4 bedroom apartment. We shop at Wal-Mart online because they upgrade our strawberry cartons to Family Size if they run out of the smaller ones. We’re that kind of wealthy. Plus, we have 2 empty rooms that could be bedrooms. We were wondering about having another baby or two but if you’re in the third trimester of a healthy pregnancy and you can’t see a path forward, would you consider giving your baby to us instead of having an abortion?

You don’t have to explain your reasons. I’m not judging you and I won’t pretend to understand the complexities of your situation. If giving birth jeopardizes your emotional, mental, or socioeconomic health you have to look for a solution that works. Good for you for doing that!

And this option is a total win-win, right? You can have a future and so can your little one. And you’ve already made it this far – which is amazing, btw! If you could just hang tough for a few more weeks until delivery, it can all be over, but in a way that empowers both you and your child.

Here’s where I’m coming from: I totally understand why abortion might seem necessary during the first or second trimester; even during the third trimester if your life is at risk. I just want to avoid abortions to healthy fetuses if they’re developed enough to feel physical, mental, or emotional pain (which I understand to be sometime before 20 weeks).

So here’s my pitch: would you let me adopt your baby, and every healthy third trimester fetus in New York who’s on the cusp of being aborted? (It’s way fewer than you might think!) Did you know that (according to the CDC) there were roughly 650k abortions in 2014 and only 1.3% happened during the third trimester? That’s like 8,500 in the whole nation, and a lot of those were to save the mom’s life, so there has to be less than 1,000 healthy pregnancies terminated in New York, right?

If I had a bigger apartment I would happily adopt 1,000 babies a year. I can at least take 2, your sweet baby and one more, and I bet I can find 499 friends who would do the same! Let’s do this together! Me and my friends can cover 2019 and maybe in a few years when you’re ready you and your friends can cover 2025? If not, no sweat. One way or another we can figure this out.

I’m so proud of how far you’ve carried your child. Just a few weeks more. You can do this! My family would be honored to help.


The Drakes

PS – JD (my 3-yr-old) wants a boy and Toby (my 2-year-old) wants a girl so either way, we’re in! ;)

#illtake2whataboutyou #thirdtrimesterabortion #thirdtrimesteradoption #letsdothis #ladiesofnewyork #familiesofnewyork

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