We walk around with our faces covered. Warm smiles and simple greetings are masked by the cloth that covers our lips. For those of us who catch this contagious disease, they say your breath is cut short. Your strength is turned to weakness.
I dare to think it was never meant to be this way. I dare to think that distance was never part of God’s redemption plan. If He descended from Heaven to Earth to seek and to save us, I can’t be convinced He would cause separation amongst His own creation. Yet, He has allowed this plague to sweep this land. He has allowed our breath to be hindered. He has allowed us to become weak.
So that we could feel His pain.
Christ’s own face became masked and marred by the beatings and lashings, covering the familiar smile His mother and brothers and friends had once known. His breath was cut short as He was hung to that tree, pushing up on his feet and gasping to fill His lungs with life. His strength was lost as He allowed His mortal flesh to give way to death the moment He became separated from His very own Father when our sin encompassed Him.
Yet, what He did next is what we are being drawn to do.
He did not allow those scars to mask His face for long. He did not allow the breath in His lungs to digress for but a short time. Temporary separation could not thwart Him of reunification. And His strength was only weak for but a moment.
For then, He arose.
He arose with a gleaming face and a gentle embrace of those He held dear. He arose as life was breathed back into His body when He sat up from that cloth which had bound and covered Him. His strength had never been more complete than when He walked away from the plague of death which surely threatened to keep Him in its grip.
You see, there is nothing that He would ask of us to endure that He has not made sure to defeat. We are walking in victory.
Yet as I ponder the pain of this season and I think about the parallels of this plight, I come to another conclusion.
For far too long a people in our midst has felt covered and smothered by a culture that stole them from their very own. They have been cut short of breath as their families and relatives have been killed at young ages and were held captive as slaves, never knowing what it feels like to take in the air of freedom. The strength they once knew in unity was stripped from them when their systems of relationship were dismantled by the hands of their oppressors.
Social distance became a mandate with the implementation of segregation. I find it no coincidence that the mantra of the racial injustice movement has been “I can’t breathe,” yet we are all walking around shielding our own faces from a full breath and fighting an invisible disease that wants to deplete our own lungs.
Just as Christ endured this pain, so have our black brothers and sisters endured it too. Maybe we were meant to know not only the sufferings of Christ in His death, but the sufferings of the plague of racism too. It has remain uncured because it has remained hidden from sight. We are not meant to cover our faces or separate ourselves from being in common spaces with one another, hiding from that which we cannot see.
Rather, we are meant to arise. Arise in community and unity to cure the plague that began in our land long before now, exposing the illness of heart for what it truly is. Arise in number, for there we find greater strength. Arise better because we are together, as we embrace one another and live out the fullness of our purpose as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and heirs to a holy promise.
I believe then we will find healing. Then we will be able to breathe again. Then we will know a strength we’ve never known, and witness restoration in our land.