Day 8–Life is Beautiful

    Day 8 of our Italian coronavirus-red-zone-crisis was a strangely delightful day. Each person peacefully pursued their own obligations of school work, teaching, reading, writing and chores. Ron played classical guitar on his work breaks; Clare took up the guitar for the first time since we left Dallas and played some scales; Mary was strumming and singing away downstairs; Jake played some music exercises in his room with the door shut. The sun was shining, the windows were open and allowing in the fresh breeze, I enjoyed phone calls and emails with family, and was especially grateful for a meal of gnocchi with spinach.
    The relative calm I experience results at least in part from the fact that our family is approaching the end of the coronavirus incubation period. If any of us is carrying it, it might have shown up by now or will soon. Once we get to the 14 day marker from the closing of schools, our contact with other human beings has been so radically, infinitesimally small that we can be pretty confident that we are safe. Being in a secluded paradise on this vineyard, with access to all the supplies we need through grocery store deliveries campus supplies, and cell phone service/data, I actually feel like we could do this indefinitely. I am at peace even amid the storm. If I were to be honest, the only thing that worries me is that the economic downturn due to corona makes us much more vulnerable to a hurricane, tsunami, or terrorist attack. In the “one-two punch” it is the second punch that makes me nervous. And still I say, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This world is not my home, and I eagerly anticipate the life to come. Hallelujah.
     After most people went to bed, I had the best night I’ve had in a really long time. Jacob, Clare and I watched Life is Beautiful, an Italian film about a family in WWII. It is billed as a “comedy” but it is more accurately described as a human drama that highlights the inestimable contribution that one creative, loving person can make, that the family is just about the only really important thing, and the enduring, resilient value of the human spirit. The three of us dried our eyes and then stayed up late into the night talking. Clare asked how the Nazi regime could have ever come to power, and Jacob and I took turns not only trying to explain how it happened, connecting it to the aftermath of WWI, but also linking the past with some current events–showing how Italians and others are not so far away from the mindset that allowed Hitler to rise up. We talked about how it is important to think hard about what kind of solutions you accept to hard circumstances–sometimes, in our poverty, we allow evil solutions just to alleviate our pain. Seeking truly just and wise leadership is so important.
    We capped it off talking about how the best way to prevent the next Hitler is to be smart, be wise, be loving, and find your way to be extraordinary in blessing other people. Clare and Jacob were right there with me keying into this mystery. I shared with them how in my 20’s, I discovered the writings of Thomas Merton, and I felt sure that he, secluded in a monastery in the middle of nowhere, was more powerful for accomplishing peace in the world and good for our human family than most politicians or public leaders. I told my kids that I feel that way about family life: being a mother and wife seems to me to have the possibility of unleashing torrents of compassion and love to our aching world. I struggle to explain this intuition: maybe like Jesus was the “exemplary cause” of love, embodying it and thus causing it to exist in the world, so too can a mother–or brother or sister or father–be an exemplary cause of God’s love and cause a revolution of Christ-centered-Spirit-filled peace to a hurting people. How could a small, humble carpenter from Nazareth bring blessing and healing to the whole world? God’s uses a different measuring stick than we do for what is powerful or important. I lack the right words to describe my sense–As “little Christs” (St. Augustine), we are invited and called to this glorious, humble way.