Mississippi is a land of mild winters and long hot summers. Then there is October and April.
October is dry and wonderful, but the leaves are falling, which gives me a bit of wistfulness. April has the horrible tornadoes, but these are soon followed by an outrageous bursting of new life and gorgeous blue days.
Jackson is full of big buildings, some beautiful, some simply functional. But by far, the most beautiful buildings throughout the metro area are our churches. And they are on almost every street corner. It’s hard to deny that faith is the fundamental cornerstone of life in Jackson, Mississippi. We are the most religious people in the nation.
Nothing is more precious than faith. What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul? It is faith which has built our city, our state, our country — indeed, the glorious prosperity we see everywhere in the world.
Yes, we have problems. Innumerable minor problems and some pretty big ones. Even epidemics.
Does God cause epidemics? No doubt he has the power. He caused plagues in Egypt until Pharoah let the chosen people free. But God is good, merciful and just. There is plenty of evil in the world caused by unseen forces that we will never comprehend.
As Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
If anyone is to blame, it is us. We fall short in our obedience and our faith. We want to know what only God knows. Indeed, we want to play God, to be God. That is not our place in the universal order.
As we go through our most recent crisis, one involving a microscopic virus, it seems to me many of us are forgetting our place in the world. It is though we refuse to accept illness and death as a fundamental part of our existence on earth.
The average age of death for COVID-19 victims is 80 years old. Not only is this the average life expectancy in the United States, it an age that we see in the Bible, in Psalm 90:
“The days of our years are threescore and ten. And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet it is their strength in labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
I am 61 and will soon be 62. My father died of a heart attack at 65. Maybe I will live to be 80, maybe not. That is not my call. As Jesus said, “Every hair on your head is numbered” and worrying won’t add “a single hour to your life.”
I do know this: As I age, I will die of something. Heart attacks run in my family, so that’s a safe bet. Or it could be cancer. Simple pneumonia has long been a deadly killer of the elderly. Every male, if he lives long enough, will get prostate cancer. Human aortas bulge a little bit every year. Live long enough, your aorta is guaranteed to burst. God has planned our obsolescence.
For me, that’s OK. I’m good with that. There is not a single thought or feeling that I have felt that every other human hasn’t thought or felt. We are part of a great body of humanity that goes on forever. That should be enough immortality for anyone.
For Christians, there is even more — a promise of a perfected, resurrected body impervious to disease and imperfection. Hard for me to imagine, but I believe. That faith brings me peace.
So excuse me if I seem unterrified by COVID-19 as I admire the stunning beauty of a Mississippi April day. As a dutiful citizen of the republic, I will don my mask in the grocery store and wash my hands. We have a responsibility to be good stewards. But I don’t think for one microsecond that I am controlling this process. We ain’t driving.
Spring is a time of rebirth. There are billions of young, healthy, vibrant human souls walking the surface of this globe. They are full of energy, ready to embrace life. They have strong, healthy immune systems and are chomping at the bit to live their lives.
We old people can’t hold them back forever, even if we could. And we shouldn’t. It is their world now. And what a beautiful thing that is to behold.
I read somewhere that fear is prayer to the devil. We can’t live in fear. That is not living. That is a living death.