Caught in this pandemic we’re mimicking Adrian Monk, sanitizing ourselves so we don’t contribute to spreading the coronavirus by neglecting hygiene and boundaries.

Tony Shalhoub plays Monk, the “obsessive detective,” who is known for his compulsive hand washing with wipes because he is paranoid of germs (and 100 other controlling fears). Randy Newman’s theme song for the show, “It’s a jungle out there” could be playing over the sound systems of Costco and grocery stores as we wrestle over TP and sanitizer:

It’s a jungle out thereMonk cleaning
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well I do
Hey, who’s in charge here?
It’s a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what’s in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it’s amazing
People think I’m crazy, ’cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you’d be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so
‘Cause there’s a jungle out there
It’s a jungle out there

As someone serving First Image, a ministry called to mobilize God’s people to love like every life counts, I’m seeking how to integrate between the new spiritual discipline of “social distancing” and “being present to love my neighbor.” In our ministry this means how do we safeguard the health of our staff and volunteers in our PRCs, while remaining accessible to provide the essential healthcare (pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, nurse consults, STI testing) to women facing unsupported pregnancy? Since most of those we serve are already anxious about their pregnancy, the specter of the virus magnifies their consideration of aborting their baby. We are committed to being available to them with Christ’s compassion and hope.

Martin Luther’s pastoral counsel for leaders in the midst of the plague in 1527, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” is pure gold:

You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.”

We have called our staff to necessary “distancing” while exercising wise, courageous love. All of our inboxes are filled with essential healthcare directives for reducing this plague, and we are following the best of these, and we exhort all others to do the same. All of our numerous weekly team meetings and work sessions are now being conducted remotely, thanks to a wonderful online app that allows all our staff to “meet” virtually via video and audio connection.

We polled our PRC staff, and in keeping with the kind of sacrificial servants they are, they unanimously insisted that we continue to provide services in our centers as long as we’re allowed to.

We’re all talking about the unintended economic consequences of this pandemic. First Image is turning our annual Steps for Life fundraising event into a “Virtual Walk and Run” (we’ll be walking and running by faith, and not by sight this year). We are trusting God that our faithful givers and prayer partners will enjoy creatively participating in this new event with us, so that all the funds needed to serve the women, men, and babies at risk for abortion will be fully supplied.

Before and above all, we join the call to prayer, repentance, renewal, and reconciliation. We are committed to draw closer to God personally and as a staff during this “distancing” season. We will keep abiding in Christ. In fact, we are diving deeper and praying more fervently. Our staff is joining virtually three times every week to pray together.

Do any of us doubt that we as a city, as a nation – beginning with the Church – need a season of repentance and renewal? [I Peter 4:17]. I’m in a season of doing more confessing, repenting and forgiving. I believe God calls us to this so we are available as his servants for our neighbors to proclaim, “Be reconciled to God!” [II Cor 5:20-21]. We pray that this pandemic – and how we as Christians love our families, and our neighbors – will awaken many more in our community to faith and hope in Christ.

I invite you to pray for us at First Image. Like everyone else around us, we are totally dependent on God to live and serve faithfully in this season. We need his wisdom. We need Jesus’ courageous love. We need his protection. We need his joy. And we know he draws near to those who draw near to him [James 4:5-10].

I’ll resist the temptation to re-binge on “Monk” reruns during this quarantine. Instead, I’ll be saturating myself in the goodness of God so I’m ready for the different world we’ll be entering when the pandemic eventually subsides.

I want to leave you with two encouraging things to read, this one for everyone, and this one specifically for leaders.

– Larry Gadbaugh, CEO, First Image