Thank God for Lockdowns
Over the past year and a half, we have all become what feels too familiar with terms like ‘lockdown’, ‘social-distancing’, ‘checking-in’ and ‘border closure’. A mask that I once would have been tackled for wearing into a bank has become not just the norm, but even legally required. Last year, on 29 February, my husband and I went to a concert on the Gold Coast. At that point, COVID-19 was something on the news, but seemed so far away. Two weeks later, I was working from home.
Eighteen months on from this and I feel restless. I have two plane tickets to Japan worth of credit sitting with a travel agency, my husband lost his job and has been finding work in sectors unrelated to his training, wearing masks gives me cold sores, and overall, I’m just at the point where I want to whinge about how frustrating this whole thing is. I mean, try making plans right now; it’s like rolling the dice as to whether they happen, don’t happen, or some awkward in-between point that’s somehow the worst. To say the least, the word ‘thankful’ would not accurately describe how I am feeling.
Of course, isolation is a problem en masse currently. However, for many of us, one of the worst parts of all of this has been only haphazardly being able to attend worship, in person, with other Christians. For many of us, it has been utterly terrifying to see how quickly our government is even able to put a halt to church services. Not being legally allowed to attend church (in person) is something that I never thought I would see. And when we have been able to gather in person, there have been restrictions on both numbers and activities. Singing in a mask is altogether unpleasant, and I miss being able to hug my friends.
So basically, while I may not have expressed this out loud, the last year I have been throwing myself a giant pity party. I’m not saying that I’m not allowed to feel frustrated by these things; frustration, anger, sadness… they’re all normal responses to this. But choosing to focus on the worst in my life has never been who I am, so why have I let this pandemic turn me into someone I am not?
As much as lockdowns, masks and all the social protocols are frustrating, they’re there in an attempt to keep people safe. It’s not a perfect system, and because of that it’s oh so easy to criticise. Someone that I used to know put a post on Facebook this week that said the following;
“Hey pastors, while you shut your church doors to your sheep yesterday – to ‘love your neighbour’ – the government allowed EB Games to stay open. Are y’all not going to say anything? Or do anything? Or will you just keep closing your church doors while pretending you are ‘keeping people safe’ when you are just cowering from the Government. Eb games is more essential than the gospel – that’s what you say when you keep your church doors closed.”
This is such an easy criticism to make. And believe me, I can relate to the underlying frustration. Do I think EB Games is essential? Of course not. Particularly when they sell computer games that you can buy from their store online. And my hope is that people genuinely consider what is essential before going to the store. But I ask you, does that make it right to make this comment?
Is the ‘they are doing it, so we must too’ really a good enough argument? Aren’t we, as Christians, called to be better than that? Gathering together is important, but churches should be doing their part for the community and staying home to limit the risk. Worship online or by phone is very achievable in our society. It doesn’t feel the same, and I miss being gathered in person, but that doesn’t make it necessary.
Even if you didn’t have access to church online or phone church, would that separate you from God? Would that destroy your faith? My answer to this is a resounding and certain ‘no’. My ability to sit in a room with other people of the same faith doesn’t determine my faith. Gathering with others strengthens my faith and I crave the fellowship and companionship that has been so sporadic over this year and last.
It’s so easy to criticise, when Australia has been relatively less affected by COVID-19 than the rest of the world. That isn’t to say that it’s been easy here, just that it’s been harder elsewhere. Maybe we lockdown to quickly, or maybe not quick enough, but making that decision with incomplete information can’t be easy. Our government is far from perfect, but they are at the very least trying to keep people safe. As at when I am writing this, we have had a total of 34 384 cases and 924 deaths. This compared to 198 234 951 reported cases worldwide. Only 0.1% of Australians have been recorded as having COVID-19. When so many have been impacted by government policies, and so few by the actual disease, it becomes so very easy to criticise. 
And this is why I am thankful for lockdowns. So few Australians have been ill. I am not trying to diminish the impact that it has had on the families who have feared for or lost loved ones. But the loss elsewhere has been greater. In Italy 7.2% percent of the population has had this illness, the United Kingdom has 8.8% and the United States has 10.6%. It puts our less than one percent into perspective.  These are all developed countries, all with health care systems that couldn’t cope with the volume of patients with health complications. Never in my life did I think that I would hear that so many medical staff from London had symptoms consistent with PTSD. A couple of years ago it would have been unthinkable that a country like the US would be triaging the best use of ventilators. The idea that staff from a hospital could have symptoms akin to serving in the war seems unfathomable. And I don’t even want to think about the idea of someone I love not receiving adequate care because the staff or physical resources weren’t available.
The person who made the Facebook Post is a registered nurse at an aged care facility. The people that they work with are among the most vulnerable. In so many areas, Christians value life over ease and comfort. I hope that this would extend to vulnerable people during this pandemic, choosing to keep people safe whether or not the government requires it. When I think about being stuck in lockdown, I am frustrated. But when I think of my grandparents (particularly those that have heart or lung related health conditions), I am terrified of not having a lockdown. Their wellbeing is so much more important to me than any inconvenience could ever be.
So, as frustrated as I am, I choose to be thankful for lockdowns.
Author: Lauren Mead