This quarantine is hard, full stop. It is necessary, inevitable, and all the same just plain hard. The swiftness of a change so massive was shocking: in the time it took to read two emails, I went from worrying about midterms that week to losing my plans for at least the next few months. And then slowly the reality dawned that it would not be business as usual at home either. No, I will not get to visit old friends. No, I will not get to make this or that trip. No, I will not get to see much other than my house and my family for the foreseeable future.
It felt like a cruel bait-and-switch. My first year at college, a step into independence. Walking through the Yard, seeing how the sunlight filtered through the tree boughs—a sense of freedom tinged it all. I absolutely loved it. And then, following that now ubiquitous script, it all vanished. Campus and Cambridge became four walls and a computer screen. Stepping away was almost like handing over some of that newfound freedom.
College students like me are not the only ones experiencing this confinement. We have all lost both physical and relational space; we can no longer move, interact, live as we would. Fighting this virus has mandated that we forgo preferred norms and limit ourselves to our homes and distanced interactions. And it is hard: how often do I find myself wanting to break my fists through the walls of this quarantine and run away? Small irritations simmer and boil over into large frustration, and the next day: the same place, the same faces.
One such frustrating night, after a tense conversation without solution, I resigned myself to the fact that there was no answer but grace. Living so closely, frustrations are inevitable; I can only hope to receive grace for my faults, and give the same. But lying in my bed I stared at the ceiling and thought: this is impossible. My frustration seemed too deep-rooted; to give others grace, too towering. How could I move myself from such depths to such heights?
The answer, of course, is that I could not. My frustration is for me irremovable, and the act of giving grace insurmountable. But thanks be to God, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV): Christ, by nature of the incarnation, suffered the same sense of loss we now feel. Jesus, “being in very nature God … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”—the infinite, omnipotent, creating God confined himself to man’s frame (Philippians 2:6,7).
Therefore, our hope for this quarantine is to turn to our suffering savior. He understands our loss, knows what it is to be confined: therefore, we can find peace in his compassion, and perseverance in his companionship. And looking upon him, we will find that he came—that he confined himself—not “to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). It is Christ’s design for us not just to survive this quarantine, but to also help others thrive through it. And to serve and encourage others well, we must continually turn to him.
His fullest act of service to us—and his greatest submission to human limits—was not that he removed his heavenly splendor for dusty garb, not that he bore men’s slander instead of angels’ praise, but this: “he humbled himself, and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). That selfsame cross is our only path to true freedom, liberation from the confinements of inner corruption and death. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).
This cross is our banner for this quarantine: an emblem of sacrifice for others’ good, for freedom out of confinement. At its foot Christ offers unconquerable life—that with which he blasted away the stone of his grave. It is a free life, no matter the external circumstances. This quarantine is hard, but perhaps it will turn us to a deeper, inner freedom in Christ and broader service to others. Take heart: for if we are confined with our Savior, surely we will share in his overcoming freedom.
Joseph McDonough ’23 is a freshman in Stoughton Hall.