The “social camouflage” has come off. What now?
In his memoir The boy behind the curtain Australian author Tim Winton describes living near the hospital where his wife worked and how each day the messiness of life would spill out of the building and onto the nearby streets. He describes how counter-cultural he found such an experience. “On any street in any city, there’s a human story walking past you every moment, but it’s usually withheld. But in the lee of a hospital the social camouflage slips away, and what’s usually disguised is on display. Where else do people bear their own narratives so openly?”
Winton’s point is that in ordinary life we all wear masks, hiding how we are really going. But when a crisis hits the “social camouflage” is removed, and we reveal how we are really feeling, warts and all.
This is precisely the effect the coronavirus is having upon us now as a nation, and indeed globally. “What’s usually disguised” – people’s fears, anxieties, and in terms of grocery hoarding, their selfishness – “is on display”.
And while a priority is of course to care for the sick and vulnerable in our community during this time, it would be negligent for Christians to also neglect the tremendous opportunity for the Gospel such an event affords us. It is so rare for us as a culture to take off our mask, and remove the social camouflage. Now more than ever we should be quick to speak into people’s fears and anxieties.
Some of the best examples I have heard of this in recent days is offering to pray for people. Particularly in my context of ministering to people in the workplace, people are speaking openly about fears around job losses. When this happens the simplest way you can respond is to say that you will pray for them, either in the moment if they are comfortable with that, or later on. So far I have only heard positive stories when people have offered to do this. Remember, the social camouflage has come off, and people are open to things that ordinarily they might scoff at or dismiss.
Similarly I’m hearing stories of a greater receptiveness amongst people to read the Bible with others. Again, colleagues who might have previously been a few steps away from being open to an invitation like this are saying yes, or at least considering it.
This is our time to hold out the tremendous hope of the Gospel to our colleagues, family and friends. To hold out the hope of a God who heals. The hope of a God who knows the needs of His children and provides. And ultimately the hope of life beyond the grave, a hope that no virus can eliminate. Let me implore you to take the opportunity that this season affords us by both hands and do not let it pass! The “social camouflage” has come off. How will you respond?
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Andrew Laird works for City Bible Forum in Melbourne and directs Life@Work - an initiative aimed at connecting Christian faith with our daily work. He’s also the author of a book, Under Pressure: how the gospel helps us handle the pressures of daily work.