Fear-shaming seems to be a thing these days. As if showing respect for a novel coronavirus and figuring out how to minimize its risks are somehow the actions of cowards (and/or the faithless) versus a fact-seeking mission to determine what we can and cannot control about this threat that has seemingly thrown our world off its axis.

For years, my family has called me Safety Mom, in part because I had writing jobs about safety and baby products. But I guess you could probably argue that I was able to get hired for those jobs because I’ve always been one to think about safety concerns. Do I live my life in fear? No. Yet I do live my life by researching safety risks and analyzing various protections and preparations. When it comes to safety, there are many factors not under our control—my approach is to put my efforts toward simple ways to reduce risks. In the end, that’s all anyone can do. After all, we’re not in charge!

For background, I admit that I come from a somewhat overprotected childhood.

First of all, my dad was raised an only child, but, really, he was the child who followed the death of his parents’ only other child. My grandparents were so afraid of losing him that he was raised as a fragile piece of china—even though he grew up on a Depression-era farm. His nickname in school became “Mittens”—because he wasn’t allowed to get dirty or roughhouse. He grew up to earn a professional degree and work as a pharmacist, only using his hands to count pills and type labels. My father seemed a stranger to his own body—living in a cerebral world where physical risks were minimized. For him, it was his lifestyle focused on comforts that threatened his physical health more than outside risks or movements.

And, for me—I was the baby who did not die when my body raged with infection at four months of age. But the experience left me underweight and scrambling to catch up. My dad’s mom would grab my hands and say things like, “She has hands like a bird. Do you think she will make it?” And whenever I fell down in her presence, she would gasp in fear for me—a reaction that never went away throughout all the normal bumps and bruises of my childhood. Not until I could get my tonsils out, a procedure delayed by my lack of weight gain, could I finally grow into a sturdy child—one who tried to pump hard enough to wrap the swing around the bar, who rode my bike up gravel country roads, climbed trees, screwed up her courage to plunge off the high board, and who, in my teens, jumped at a chance to learn to ski.

Compared to my husband (he of a very physical childhood with his two brothers and more than a few broken bones between them, and a current serious mountain-biking addiction) and my own kids, who I strove not to inject with the legacy of fear my family had attempted to swaddle me in, I am a delicate little flower.

However, I do not often cower in fear. I prepare myself by reading the latest studies (from a layman’s perspective), while watching for bias or updated information. My educational background is in reading and writing, and my current editing work falls in the area of science education—an area where I was NOT naturally drawn to at a young age. No doubt my growth into Safety Mom drove me toward trying to figure out how different factors affect health. In general, if my research tells me something I don’t want to hear, I have to decide how badly I want to avoid the risks.

Unfortunately, what I read at this point in our early days of understanding the current viral threat is that how I respond to safety precautions matters to the health of many beyond my own circle. I don’t really spend a lot of time worrying about myself—or even about those whom I love. Instead, I spend time making certain that—as much as possible—I follow the current recommended safety precautions.

What looks like fear to many is actually love. I am doing unto others what I want them to do for me (see Matthew 7:12). I do this because of what Jesus said—not because I don’t have faith. What if keeping our lamps trimmed and burning (see Matthew 25:1-13) is actually about being prepared to care for others in this interim of waiting for better solutions to this illness? Could the inconvenience of loving our neighbors by maintaining distances and wearing facial coverings actually demonstrate that we are willing to accept God’s timing and ways—in all things, including how and when the bridegroom will arrive?

Fear not, but prepare wisely. Because we do not know the hour or time, one way to keep watch is by showing your love.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert