The first I heard of the potential of someone carrying around a letter from their employer stating that they are “Essential” to the operation of their organization, I thought to myself, “Well, aren’t they special?”
Over the past number of weeks, due to COVID-19, companies and organizations have sought to justify their operation (and potential existence) as being “Essential” to the operation of society. From Hobby Lobby to the local liquor store to the mom & pop diner.
But what does it mean to be “Essential”? As classicists, many of us would point out that Esse is the infinitive form of the Latin word Sum (“I am”). Esse could then be translated as “to be” or “to exist”. Merriam-Webster online leads us back to our question just posed and another important derivative, saying that Esse means, “essential nature: essence”. Essence.
As our school has been forced to pare down our offerings, delivery, and material for the execution of “Stay-At-Home” education, I have spent much time meditating on what is the very core that must be passed on—now by the parents themselves—to the students.
“What is the Essence of a classical Christian education? What are the things about which we might say sine qua non (‘without which it is not’)?”
But these questions must extend beyond the scope of schools, organizations, and businesses—even beyond the scope of societal norms, federal legislations, and global economies.
These are the kinds of questions we must be asking even in—especially in—our personal lives.
As a father or mother, we should be asking: “What is Essential to our family? What do our schedules, commitments, and priorities outside of a mandated Stay-at-Home order reveal about what is Essential to raising children who will love and serve the Lord?”
As a human, we should be asking similar questions. The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts there: What is the chief end of man? What do our schedules, commitments, and priorities outside of a mandated Stay-at-Home order reveal about what we believe is Essential to being human?
And perhaps most importantly, the church must ask these questions. What do the schedules, commitments, and priorities of our churches outside of a mandated Stay-at-Home order reveal about what the church believes is Essential to being, manifesting and participating in the Body of Jesus?
How has COVID-19 helped you ask better questions? How has COVID-19 helped you find better answers?
Answering these questions is not the intention of this article. The focus on this article is asking the right questions. By that I do not mean that the answers don’t matter—they matter greatly—they matter gravely—but we must begin, like Socrates has taught us—like our Lord taught us in His incarnational ministry—by asking the right questions. Admittedly, it is tempting for me to get preachy—to try to answer these questions for your school, your family, your self, and your church. But that’s not my place here and now. I do hope and pray that the Lord might lead you through a time of reflection upon questions such as these, and that perhaps post-COVID life might actually look more like what God has intended for us all along.