By John Pavlovitz
I know what you want right now, friend.
You want this to all be over.
You want your home to be full again.
You want to hear the sounds of your grandchildren running upstairs.
You want to show off to your neighbors how tall and beautiful your kids have gotten.
You want to use the table settings you bought 11 months ago that still haven’t been touched.
You want to fiercely embrace people you love and have gone so long without.
You want to get out of the few rooms that have been your entire world for nearly a year.
You want to pack a suitcase and get on a plane and be able to wake up surrounded by those you’ve been missing.
You want to smell your mom’s apple pie when you open a front door that you know like the back of your hand, and feel the beautiful deja vu of being home.
You want a joyful holiday to interrupt this sad repetition.
You want a vacation from the lingering loneliness.
You want to exhale deeply surrounded by your tribe.
You want to feel normal again.
I know you want these things because I want them, too.
I feel it all: the homesickness, the isolation, the incessant grieving over a year you’ve lost, the disbelief at every moment and milestone you’ve been robbed of, the volcanic anger because you want it to be over now.
But it isn’t over now.
It is far worse than it has ever been.
Of all the times not to give in to the exhaustion, it’s now.
Of all the seasons not to abandon diligence, it’s this one.
Of all the days not to lose patience, it’s today.
This virus wants that.
It wants you to say to hell with it all, to give in to the seasonal muscle memory that pulls you toward your people; to think that you can sidestep it simply by wishing it away; to imagine that the familiar faces or the greeting card surroundings or the momentary lightness make you immune to the danger—but they can’t.
Life and death are in your hands and in your plans right now.
The only way this virus does its violent, destructive, deadly work, is by getting the proximity to other people that only you can give it. It cannot have access to human bodies unless you escort it there upon your breath and through your laughter and in your stories—and into the lungs of your grandmother, your children, your best friends, your new grandchild, the person standing next to you at the grocery store, the people they know and love.
And in this way, this vile and unrelenting killer is relying upon you right now—and so are the people you share this place with.
And right now, the painful, counterintuitive but redemptive choice, is to show people how much you love them all by staying away from them.
I know how badly you want this gathering on this year, how much you need a respite from the grieving—but I hope you’ll want more than that.
I hope you’ll want years or even decades to make plans and go on vacations and celebrate birthdays and attend graduations and make memories and share meals, and do all the living you can. I hope that all those future possibilities and the multitude of lives you are tethered to—are worth more than a few hours this week.
For your parents and your children, for your best friends and grandchildren, for doctors and nurses stretched to their limits, for strangers walking by you at the gas station, for the exhausted, lonely, and scared humanity you share this life with—postpone your celebrations a few months longer.
The greatest gift we can give the people we love in this moment is to keep our distance from them.
The most tangible expression of our gratitude for this life and the lives around us and for everything we have, is to be still.
The most honorable stewardship of our freedoms in days like these, is to restrain ourselves and to sacrifice on behalf of others.
The most loving act we can engage in this holiday season, is to wait where we are.
Give thanks for this life and stay home.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past four years his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities.