My light-heartedness was a welcome surprise the past couple of days. I couldn’t have guessed that two snow days in a row would seem such a blessing, but they were. Two days of unstopping, unstoppable flurries. Mostly small, hard-to-see specks of snow, sometimes lovely, large flakes, the sort I most like watching. I couldn’t go out; I didn’t want to go out.
For a full eleven months now we’ve been separated, set aside by fear: fear of people and places where COVID-19 could be lurking. Fear of changing restrictions and conflicting advice. Snow, though, is both familiar and transitory. The past two days have been a respite from worry. I posted the required snow photo on Facebook and the words, “I’ve been so happily tucked into the house today. I’m not home because of any stupid virus. It’s a Snow Day!”
As I’ve been filling these months of one non-snow day after another, I’ve watched a lot of British TV. A lot! An ongoing debate seems to be Britbox vs. Acorn. I resolved that by subscribing to both. Along with PBS Passport and Netflix. Yes, a good deal of British TV, mystery shows in particular. Besides my fascination with the small villages of Midsomer, busy streets of London, and the rocky Cornwall cliffs, I am drawn to the wonderfully crafted characters. I love the sound of the language. My mother tongue, so familiar, yet so different.
One phrase that catches my interest each time I hear it is “needs must.” From the context, I guessed the meaning might be “I don’t want to, but I’m going to.”
Checking on line, I discovered I was darned close. “Needs must” is defined as “necessity compels.” It implies something that is done unwillingly, but with an acceptance that it can’t be avoided. For example, “I don’t feel like cleaning up the kitchen, but needs must, I suppose.”
We’ve surely been living though an era of “needs must.” A time made even more trying, since we’ve been moving through unknown territory along the way.
The first week of March, 2020, I was at a multiple- day meeting with a group of clergy. For two of them the spiritual business kept being bumped by news of the temporal. Just days before, on February 29, the first COVID-19 death in the nation had been reported. The fledgling pandemic had claimed its first victim, a resident at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. Medical experts were now raising dire concerns about the seriousness and contagion of the virus.
The pastors of the Bothell and Issaquah churches, both located close to the Life Care Center, were in the meeting. They began the unthinkable, yet necessary, plans to close their church buildings by the upcoming Sunday. One week later, most of the United Methodist churches in the state followed their lead and closed their sanctuaries as well. It was unimaginable that churches would lock up their facilities, but needs must.
On March 16, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee mandated closure of all restaurants, bars, and recreational facilities for a two-week period. He named this the “new normal” for Washington.
School and college closures followed. Personal gatherings became non-existent. Mask wearing was required. With each step of these changes, I believe many of us said a communal “This is so very difficult, but needs must.” Gov. Inslee’s original two-week commandment was far less than what would be necessary, but he was on the mark naming this our “new normal.”
Every holiday missed, each family event postponed, all the travel plans cancelled. “This is so hard to do, but needs must!”
Wearing a mask is a nuisance. Staying at home is draining. So what! Those are such simple things I can do. So many problems can only be fixed by knowledge beyond my ken, but wearing a mask—staying at home—are things I understand. Needs must.
As I was putting this piece together in my usual fashion, bits and scraps of ideas, magazines marked, and sticky tabs placed on lines of my books I just don’t want to lose, I came across this from James 1:12 (The Message translation.) The verse reads “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”
In this epistle, a letter from James to the Christ-followers in his area, he develops an overall theme of patience and perseverance during times of trial. He was writing to encourage others to live consistently with what they have learned in Christ. He wants his readers to live what they say they believe. Sounds to me as if he were explaining “needs must.” This time is tough, but hold fast, for needs must.
Blessings on you, my friend. Let’s hold each other up, for needs must!