“I feel like the guy at the pool!”
Immediately the room erupted in laughter. The laughter began in Romania, swept across Europe, the UK and across the Atlantic to the U.S.
The room was a Zoom virtual “room,” and we were several hours into the day’s work. And Phil had just put his finger on something all of us in Generation Zoom have now come to know.
“I feel like the guy who spent 38 years trying to get into the pool to get healed, but somebody else always got there first!”
First, we have to figure out what we want to say on a topic. Then, we have to figure out how to get the moderator’s attention (“Where is that button again? Dang, where did all those icons go? Stupid computers!!!!!!”).
By the time we remember to look for the “participants” icon… and find the “raise hand” button in the pop-out menu… and our hand gets noticed by the moderator… well, by then everyone else has moved on. And we continue to lie there, by the side of the pool, awaiting our next chance to try to wriggle our way in.
None of us has been in a Zoom meeting for 38 years. But it can certainly feel like it. Especially if you’ve had a bunch of them already today… and the day before… and the day before that. And, anyway, is it the 90th of MarApriMay yet?
Of course, those of us who are just about Zoom-ed out have it a lot easier than the guy in John 5. He spent a lifetime ignored. The people who were supposed to be looking out for him only finally noticed him when he had become able to break the rules. Then, instead of rejoicing over his miraculous healing and freedom to do anything, they jumped all over him for doing the wrong thing. We don’t often notice that Jesus went out of his way to stir up trouble in this story, both making it possible for the man to move, and then calling him to move in a way that would provoke a reaction. Jesus was determined to reveal the truth about who was being ignored, and who was being served by day-to-day operations in Jerusalem. His revelation was so unflattering to the authorities that, as we remembered again last month, they chose to kill him rather than to admit their error and change their ways. John’s Gospel calls the healing of the man by the pool a “sign,” a pointer to the real identity of Jesus. It revealed Jesus. Not by accident, it also exposed the darkness into which he came.
Those of us who have the luxury of growing tired of Zoom (and all the other tools of “virtual living”) are not only far better off than the lame guy by the pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda). We are far better off than truly vast numbers of people all around us. I’m on Zoom, not on a ventilator. I’m trying to get the attention of the moderator, not the nurse on the floor. What I can’t figure out is a computer program, not a Small Business loan program or a food program. My frustration is over my inability to use these tools better, not over the inability to be present for grieving or dying family members.
I think of how privileged I am to struggle with Zoom, when I realize that many schools and teachers even right here in my own state have been unable to help their students keep learning, because those students belong to the America that has little or no access to internet communications. They are students without adequate household incomes. Students with no stable house. Or, when I realize that the single most urgent problem to be solved by many—if not most—school administrators was not how to keep students connected and learning. It was how to keep students fed.
The pandemic has spread suffering across all social and geographic lines. But not equally. It has thrown more light on many, many challenges that face our world and our nation. I pray that when the acute phase of the crisis has passed, we will not be so relieved and so eager to “get back to normal,” that we forget what we are seeing and hearing right now. May the Lord use the patience and persevering spirit we are cultivating now, to make us agents for long term changes in our world as opportunities arise.
For now, though, we continue to cultivate that patient perseverance… even if our “cultivating” is mostly not going, not doing and not increasing the vulnerabilities of others.
May the Lord give you the grace of persevering patience. May the Lord grant you wisdom in the use of whatever freedoms and resources you have. May the Lord enable you to be creative in finding ways to be a channel of love and encouragement to those around and “around” you. And may the Lord renew your joy, even in the midst of trial!
P.S. One of the ways I have been responding to the COVID-19 crisis is by reminding myself and others of the beauty of God’s good creation through photography. I’ve been posting photos to Facebook and also to Unsplash–a place to share photos without restricting their use. It has been fun to interact with folks about them–and to approve their use for ministry in Rwanda, devotional reflections in Central America and blogs, among other places. I am grateful for beauty–even in the midst of so much death and destruction–and for the opportunity to see and share it!
P.P.S. I have been deeply touched by the generosity of folks in the midst of the gut-wrenching–and for many, life-shattering–economic crisis that has been provoked by the measures taken to stem the tide of COVID-19. (The plunge would have been slower, but far deeper and longer-lasting, had such measures not been taken.) Thank you for making this ministry part of what God is doing through you, even in the midst of the crisis!
P.P.P.S. For those who, thankfully, are in a position to be able to give, today is #GivingTuesdayNow — a special fundraising effort by International Ministries and a whole host of nonprofit organizations that are in especially great need of support in the wake of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are able, please help!
P.P.P.P.S. Cathy and I are using Zoom to talk to the grandkids (the tool is free), our small group at church, distant (and only socially-distant) friends, as well as for work. If you have not already been introduced to Zoom and want to learn more about this helpful tool, go to: https://zoom.us/
P.P.P.P.P.S. As people and companies seek to help each other during the COVID-19 crisis, artists are freely sharing some of their creative work. This song, “Far Apart… Together,” by Gary Burr (songwriter for several famous musicians) is one you might enjoy and want to share. (It is being made available for use in campaigns and promotions by MegatraxMusic—so, to get a free license to use it, click here.