The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith: Coping with quarantine


It feels like Day 2,132 of quarantine. In reality, it's been only a few weeks. We've all had to find ways to cope.

Extroverts are suffering more than the rest of us. They keep ordering takeout just to see people. Introverts only thought they liked social isolation. They've binge watched everything possible on Netflix and are now watching reruns of MASH on YouTube.

Thank goodness for good weather. Most of the yards in my neighborhood now look like Augusta National Golf Course. People who've never had a houseplant have put in gardens. Ditto for home repair projects. I actually talked to a man recently who told me he had finished all the home repair projects he'd put off for years and was now reorganizing his attic. I told him to come over to my house when he got done.

I've never seen so many people exercising. I see walkers and runners out every day. Old bikes are being rescued from forgotten corners of garages. I saw a 6-foot man riding a pink bike with a banana seat and high-rise handlebars. You make do with what you have.

With restaurants closed, home cooking is making a comeback. I saw on Instagram a woman charting the progress of her "starter" for sourdough bread. I sent her a message volunteering to be her taste tester. I told her, "Have butter, will travel."

My fisherman friends are spending a lot of time on the water, though I'm not sure how they are getting their boats in the lake. I live on a little pond, and neighbors I've never seen fish are out there. Most of them are throwing back what they catch, although I've heard rumors a couple of them are experimenting with homemade sushi.

Sport fans like me are suffering. When March Madness was called off, all the men who had scheduled their vasectomies in order to binge watch basketball were regretting their decisions (probably on their timing). Some people enjoy watching reruns of games; I'm not one of them. I know who won the National Championship in 2010 (Duke). I don't really enjoy watching baseball or golf on TV, but to watch reruns of games and matches seems like an Ambien prescription to me.

I'm catching up on my reading. Yesterday I read an entire book at one sitting. It was "Cat in the Hat." Just practicing for my time with my yet-to-arrive grandchild. I'm reading the newspaper more slowly. Believe it or not, there are still classified ads.

Lust has become a problem for me. I'm lusting after used tractors with front-end loaders. Night after night, I look at the Facebook marketplace to see what's available. You never know when it might be handy to have one. So far, only one person has met my price: $25. Turns out he was offering a John Deere scale-model toy.

I've been seized with the urge to ramble. I now understand the idea of a Sunday drive. The other day I loaded up the dogs and drove nowhere. They enjoyed letting their ears flap, and I needed to see something besides the four walls of the house.

Watching the news is important to me now. I'd forgotten we had local news on TV. I find myself hoping for a report that the case numbers and deaths are going down. The good thing about the local news is there is no playful banter among the news staff; they're all in separate rooms or at home.

I'm spending more time in intentional prayer. I pray more deeply for people I love and for people I know. I'm hearing God speak to places in my soul I wish he would leave alone. Quarantine has arrested the business of life and opened up space in my heart. "Be still and know that I am God" is easier, now that meetings are suspended.

Most of all, quarantine is teaching me to cope with hope. Quarantine will end. The threat of COVID-19 will pass. We'll eat out again. Meetings will resume. Kids will go back to school. We will all find a new normal.

Followers of Jesus are people of hope. We wait for our quarantine on earth to end, wait for the day when the sin virus no longer contaminates our world and our souls. But our hope is not in a change of circumstance. Our hope is in a person, a Savior.

To hope in Jesus means you know that no matter what is happening in you or around you, he has promised you something better. That hope he sealed with his death on the cross and guaranteed with his resurrection. Put your life in his hands, and his promise is your hope.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.