Everyday Christian: So, now how do I live?

Life in the midst of a pandemic, bushfires and climate change

I feel hemmed in, tied down, strangely imprisoned. In my mind, but also in my physical movements. It’s a strange feeling of an invisible pestilence that can show up anywhere.

I constantly double-guess myself. I worry about forgetting to take my mask outside. I worry that any slight ache or pain or runny nose is a COVID symptom that will then infect my family. The atmosphere is invasive and I feel defensive, as if an enemy is surrounding me and trying to find me.

How should I react as a Christian?

It isn’t only the COVID risk, but the smell of smoke in the air that reminds me of the coming bushfire season as burn-off prevention is underway around our district. The news I read is saturated with climate change warnings and climate change scepticism. What future do my children have, and why doesn’t our Australian Government at least recognise the past and real threat to our future? How should I react as a Christian? Should I get involved in a creation care movement? I am adding two solar-powered battery storage devices to my house, and we have purchased two electric bicycles for transport. We try to grow much of our own food, raise chickens for eggs and engage in neighbourhood food swapping. But it seems so insignificant when the globe is changing around us.

COVID didn’t seem quite so oppressive in the first wave during 2020 when it came to town – when masks and Zoom were still a novelty. I live on the NSW coast, but my family owns a farm in the North West of NSW. When the first outbreak happened last year, we even semi-seriously joked about stockpiling food and supplies in case there was a supply distribution collapse. You might laugh, but one of my brothers stockpiled extra fuel to be able to drive to the farm from Sydney in case the petrol supplies were cut, hindering him from getting to said food supplies. And perhaps there is wisdom in this when you look at the situation in the UK now with fuel supply shortages.

My 16-year-old daughter faces a constant stream of unmasked drive-through customers.

Strangely, and alarmingly as the Omicron variant spreads, my three children who live with us need to be almost roped to their bedrooms to stop them from going out on social meet-ups and adventures. My 16-year-old daughter is employed as a casual at both Hungry Jacks and McDonalds. She faces a constant stream of unmasked drive-through customers each day. When she was sent a message that she was a potential contact with a COVID-positive person, we were the ones asking ourselves, ‘Is it really essential that people need to get a burger instead of cooking one for themselves, and then risk the pestilence being brought home to our family and then our extended family?’ Then the next minute, she asks if she can go to the beach to ‘exercise’ with her friends and sunbathe – with the other 300 people doing the same in the limited space available.

How do I cope? I find myself mostly soothed by growing my own native bush tucker and vegetables. I love visiting our chickens to just watch them, and find it very satisfying to gather our own eggs, even though they cost three times the price of the supermarket battery-hen produce. I have become a big fan of scrolling through social media and Pinterest to find natural sculptures and artistic techniques that I dream of replicating in my front garden.

I have also been brought to tears by the real human person of Jesus in the app-based streaming show The Chosen. When I see the ‘real’ Jesus performing a miracle, and loving simple people like me, it feeds my aching soul and inspires my heart to keep persevering each day. It inspires me to keep giving to my 21-year-old son, and to go walking with him and consoling him about not being able to have a birthday celebration with his Sydney mates. Jesus’ simple but profound stories encourage me to keep asking questions and discussing life with my other 24-year-old son, who staunchly disbelieves in any god who would allow pestilence and terrorism. And having lived through the last couple of years watching the world, I tend to struggle alongside him and his doubts.

I’m tired of the updates. I’m tired of being at home.

I ask his advice about how to maintain strength and resilience in an environment of hyper-vigilance, information overload and decision-making fatigue.

Then, things become harder for our family. My wife and I have just had seven days in isolation after being close contacts at a friend’s lunch. Yesterday, my son was confirmed to be COVID positive. So, we now enter into another seven days of hyper-vigilance in our own home as he isolates here. This means I can’t visit my mother who is in palliative care, having been given only a couple of weeks to live.

It is within this frame of mind that recall my recent conversation with a supporter of Bible Society Australia, where I work as a donor care representative. Dr Duncan MacKinnon has lived in rural Bega in NSW for 25 years, where he runs a medical practice with others and works at the local hospital as an anaesthetist. He and his wife Sue moved there because they “wanted their faith to count, a way that was tangible to live what they preach, to minister and to witness.”

MacKinnon was awarded Australian Doctor of the Year in NSW/ACT and then Australian Doctor of the Year in 2020 for being an outstanding example of “many GPs who have worked around the clock to help their communities during the drought, summer bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic”.

I asked his advice, as a weary dad and as a Christian, about how to maintain strength and resilience in an environment of hyper-vigilance, information overload and decision-making fatigue. He reminded me about the simple things (many of which I’m already doing): self-care, exercise, tuning out by turning off the news for a few days and listening to Christian music.

“We are called to serve one another, to consider others’ needs above our own …”

He also highlighted the need to focus on the basic teachings of the gospel in all decisions we make during this difficult era.

“We are called to be all things to all people,” said MacKinnon. “We are called to serve one another, to consider others’ needs above our own. We are called to care for the weak, the sick, the poor, the homeless and the most vulnerable in our society.”

After our conversation, I felt so encouraged by his words. Now, I realise, I need to reflect on his advice more than ever.

I’m still thinking of buying some more tinned food and chickens. Oh, and possibly an extra couple of jerry cans of fuel … But first, I’ll pray about it.