When I think of the woman in the hospital being cared for by a physician with a hazardous material (hazmat) suit, I feel sorry for both of them. I worry that she feels lonely and isolated from the kind of human contact she needs, and I know that the physician wants to offer her that contact.
Don't get me wrong. I know that we all need to protect ourselves these days, and that this is Your will. I'm washing my hands, staying away from crowds, avoiding unnecessary travel. Still, I hope you understand my feelings. Do you feel sad, too? Open and relational (process) theologians say that you do feel sad. They say that you are "fellow sufferer who understands" our situation. They say that everything that happens in the world affects you.
They also say, have teasingly but half not, that You do not wear a hazmat suit. They say that you are Spirit, and that your personality is one of inclusive and unbounded love. Maybe you are like my own mother, whose personality was like this. Except that Your love is multiplied by infinity and that you are everywhere-at-once.
I mention my mother because her non-judgmental love for me was so moving. This makes me think of Jesus. I understand that Jesus addressed you as Abba. I know that some people think of Jesus as Your son but I like to think of him as Your window. I like to think that when Jesus touched the leper, he was a window for your love; that when he suffered on the cross, he was a window to your suffering; and that when he reappeared after he died he was a window to the possibility of new life.
This has implications for how I understand You. If something of Your personality was revealed in his touching the leper, then You are not as preoccupied with issues of purity, physical or psychological, as I once thought. I'd thought of You as almost obsessed with cleanliness and purity. I read a book once that said part of Jesus' ministry was to break the purity codes of his time by eating with sinners and curing people even on the sabbath, but it didn't click until now, when I imagine you caring for people without a hazmat suit.
I ask the open and relational theologians if you are holy, and they say Yes. But they add that holiness is not purity but rather compassion. I'd never thought of that. I'd thought of holiness as how you feel in front a powerful person, say on a platform in front of a king's throne. I'd never thought of it as loving-kindness. I never thought that You might not be an authority figure but rather, in Your way, a friend.
I ask them if You are transcendent and again they say Yes. But they add that Yours is a loving transcendence. What makes you transcendent, they say, is not that you are so distant but that you are closer to us than even our own breathing. This means that You transcend our walls and boundaries. Maybe diseases, too. That's why you don't need a hazmat suit.
I ask the open and relational theologians if You can cure all diseases with a single act, because you are almighty, and to my surprise they say No. They say that Your power of love doesn't work like that. It's a different kind of power, like that of a physician or nurse or nurturing parent. It can do all kinds of good things, but it is not all-controlling. I'd never thought of this, either.
I ask if the current epidemic is part of your plan and again they say No. They say that you don't work with an already-existing blueprint in your mind, as if everything is already decided. They say that the future is open, including for You, and that many things happen in the world that are not what you want, but that your love is always responding to what happens.
I ask them how we experience Your love and they say in two ways. As an inwardly felt lure to respond to each situation in the best possible way and as an eternal companion to all our sufferings and joys. Kind of like my mother again. Or Jesus' Abba.
Like I said, God, I'm going to protect myself and encourage loved ones to do the same. And I understand the need for hazmat suits. I'm going to be practical. But I'm kind of awed that you don't wear a decontamination suit or a gas-mask. In these trying times, help me cooperate with your desire that we humans take care of one another and the natural world, too. May the woman in the hospital and her physician find the comfort and courage they need. May they know -- may we all know -- how deeply we are held in Your arms, no matter what happens.