Did you know quarantine comes form the Italian, quarantina, meaning 40 days?
Having just concluded the 40 days of Lent by celebrating Easter, that number seems particularly significant. And it is–there are quite a few Biblical 40s:
- After Noah shut up the ark, it rained for 40 days and nights.
- Moses led the Israelites through the dessert for 40 years.
- Jonah, once he finally stopped running, preached to Nineveh for 40 days.
- Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan.
Forty is significant and often indicates a time of testing–of stress or even of distress. Here in North Carolina our “stay at home” order went into effect March 30 and is to last 30 days, until April 29 (barring any changes!). So not even a full quarantine.
And yet, it feels like it’s already gone on for weeks and weeks. Which gives me some added perspective. Noah and his family watched rain fall for 40 days. Man, I get twitchy if it rains for more than a day. Jesus didn’t eat or drink for way longer than I’ve been adjusting my schedule. And the devil was picking at him along the way.
Forty days is a long time when you’re in it. But what about when the time’s up? In all those Biblical examples, some pretty astonishing things happened at the end of the “quarantina.”
- The water began to recede and Noah and his family started over–completely!
- The Israelites came to the promised land.
- Nineveh turned to God.
- Jesus began thee years of intense ministry leading to his crucifixion.
So, while this time is difficult, painful, stressful, and filled with uncertainty–what if it’s also the beginning of something new? I think we’re all craving “normal” right now. But what if this weird, unprecedented time is ushering us into something better than normal? What if we carry the lessons we’re learning–the hard way–into a new way of living?
I don’t know how that would look. I don’t know what God has in store. But as we move out of Lent and into Ordinary Time I’m thinking about what can happen in 40 days–what can change. And I have high hopes that it will be worth the wait.