We got some “positive” news yesterday! A positive result. A positive test result. And no, I’m not pregnant!
After months and months and months of fear, praying, staying at home, digging into statistics, reading articles, social distancing, etc., we finally got the disease that put 2020 in an uproar! And oh how I just marvel at how GOOD God has been to me through it all!
I wrote this Psalm in our kitchen during the first couple months of the pandemic to counsel my fretful soul: “[For the righteous] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” How I prayed that prayer over and over again when I would dig myself into a COVID hole of horror stories, death rates, statistics, and fear. I called it the COVID black hole. Not a Christian place to be if you ask me.
My personal progression with the pandemic has gone as follows: First I was fearful. Fearful to get it, fearful that my kids would get it, fearful that I would spread it. Then I was worried. Worried for my parents, worried for our friends and church, worried for our nation. Following that was sadness. Sad about peoplelessness, sad about my favorite field trips going away, sad that the world as we knew it was gone. Then I was extremely judgmental. Judging my friends, judging the government, judging anyone who had a different opinion than me. Next became annoyance. Annoyed at my own opinions, annoyed at inconvenience, annoyed at every decision being complicated. Then I got rational. Rational about statistics, rational about numbers, and rational about meeting people and becoming social again. And intermingled in every phase was angst, self-consciousness (oh no, I coughed twice, do I have COVID?!), boredom, curiosity, gratefulness, sensitivity, and many more emotions that I’m sure we all experienced at one time or another.
All the while I kept praying, “Lord, keep us safe from COVID. Keep our friends safe. Keep our church safe from a rapid spread. Keep COVID away from us all.” And within all of the various emotional stages, my heart just longed for my heart to be firm. Firm in whatever happened. I began rigorously instructing myself to be more spiritual: to trust first, pray always, and not let my emotions and statistics get the best of me. Trust the Lord, not statistics. Pray for safety, don’t freak out about it. Find comfort in Christ, not your own initiatives. Be responsible and rejoice knowing the Lord will do as he wills, and what he wills is always good.
Our family has had several different COVID “scares.” The first was when Dolly got atypical pneumonia in late March. That was TERRIFYING, I’m going to confess. Her breathing was rapid, her cough uncontrollable, her nose hideous, and just a poor pathetic sorry girl. We took her to the hospital, they did all the tests, couldn’t find anything, so they tested her for COVID. My worst fear: finally in my face. But then, it ended up she didn’t have it. We were as joyous and thankful as they come! We marveled and rejoiced and were so so glad!
Then, we had the strep-throat ordeal. That wasn’t as scary as it was just practical. Bobby got tested for COVID after he started showing some cold symptoms. After his result was negative, we were surprisingly disappointed. We were kind of hoping for a positive result just so we could say, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad after all.”
So finally when I started getting symptoms on Sunday night, and increased symptoms on Monday, we were giddy with hopes that we would have it! It think we actually prayed that it WOULD be positive.
Since the beginning I have been curious up to my eye balls with what it’s like to have COVID. How does it start? What does it feel like? Does it hit you like a ton of bricks? Or is it gradual? I have known people who have had it, but not known people close enough to ask all my questions. I was dying with curiosity. What is this pandemic thing all about?! And of course, you can find an article online that tells you anything you want to hear. You can find articles telling you it’s the worst thing since cancer, and articles telling you it’s no big deal or doesn’t even exist. So Google is not the greatest help in that department.
So last night, as I was laying on the couch waiting for the final kidlet to be put to bed, my phone rang. The number was unrecognized, from Iowa. I alerted Bobby! This might be it!
“Excuse me. Is this Sarah? Yes, this is Tim from CDC and I wanted to inform you that your COVID test came back positive.”
Ah! What?! Positive?! I was in disbelief! This couldn’t be happening! I was just saying earlier that I was feeling better, and thought there was no way I could have it.
The rest of the night was a whirlwind. We called our parents. Bobby ran up to the church to get what he needed for the quarantine. We scrambled around, talking ourselves silly with weird excitement. I kind of felt really guilty we weren’t taking this more sternly and seriously. We even kissed goodnight, rather than Bobby running away from me like I’m the boogie monster.
On the other hand though, it was creepy. The talk of the century was in me. There was no escaping it. I felt dirty and vialated. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t “stay home” to avoid it. The infection that I had lost so many breathes about, so many prayers about, and so many hours thinking and talking about, was finally in my body. It arrived, and it’s here to stay it’s course.
I was so wired and creeped out from the news that I could hardly sleep (although my pounding and throbbing head advised me otherwise). However awful, sleepless, and eerie it was, it may have just been the most worshipful sleep in my life. As my eyes were shut as tight as my tired eyelids would allow, all I could do was pray and meditate. I faced death, guilt, desperate love, sorrow, and unhelpful imaginings. As I attempted to force myself to sleep, the symptoms mixed with dramatic delusions forced another agenda of tireless weak tossing and turning. I fell asleep urgently clinging to Christ to sooth and quiet my everything.
It’s almost as if the past 9 months flashed before my eyes. And I marveled at how gracious and good God was in each and every one. When I was most terrified, God was gracious in bringing us through (COVID-free) to reveal his compassion. When I was most sad, the Lord showed his loving arms and Fatherly care by comforting me with his Word. When I was judgmental and annoyed, the Lord showed me how to shut up and appreciate rather than rant and vent. And when I was most ready, and most wanting it, the Lord gave it to me.
And the thing that really get’s it over the top, is the accumulation of our whole year feels actualized in this very illness. If it weren’t for COVID, would Bobby have ever had the time to mull over his life’s purpose and pursue seminary? If it weren’t for COVID, had I ever had the phsyco-wife stage that brought me to my knees in desperation, resulting in God completely renewing my entire view of marriage, thus changing my entire response to seminary? If it weren’t for COVID, would we ever have spent so much time with Bobby’s parents in Reegee Wednesdays, surprise vegetables, and other countless interactions to escape the loneliness. If it weren’t for COVID would we have found a rekindled love for one another, an appreciation for the little things, and a craving for the slow and simple life? I challenge you to fill in your own sentence: “If it weren’t for COVID ______.” Obviously some people can insert all sorts of devastating, horrid, or just straight up grumblings in the line. But I bet my challenge wouldn’t be so challenging for most of us. I bet most of us could finish it with countless positives.
Bobby tonight actually thanked God for COVID. That seems unreligious to do. Especially when your wife is suffering from it right in front of your face! How can you thank God for something so terrible? How can you thank God for something bad? Well, as Christians we get the ironic beauty of it. We get that bad things can still be bad, but be used for our good. And therefore we thank Him. We thank him for the effects of tragedy in our lives. We thank him greatly for the work he has accomplished because of COVID, in a large-scale, and in a very very personal scale. I was not offended by my husband thanking God for my present ailment, because the sickness is more than just a virus to me, it’s a symbol.
So as my head pounds, and my nose burns, and my throat coughs, my response is bewilderingly positive. Two months ago, I think I would have been terribly annoyed. Four months ago I would have been brain-achingly worried. Eight months ago I would have treated every ailment as dooms-day and imagined each breath would have been my last. But today, I thank God for it. I thank God for his perfect absolute timing. Good timing in our schedule (we are missing nothing!), but even better timing for our souls.
I wait curiously how this virus is going to unleash itself fully in myself. And I await not with weak nerves nor a feeble soul, but as a prepared person of God for whatever is handed to me. I don’t want to waste this sickness with stupid complaints, screens stuffed in faces, or zoning out in deserved “rest.” I want to see this bug as a symbolic milestone of our beastly 2020. I want to leverage the quarantine, not to get a lot of tasks done, but to see what is being done through it. Just like God has accomplished more than I ever imagined through the pandemic so far, do I want to see what more he is accomplishing through it in myself, right now. It’s a physical (yet painful) reminder that God is working even when we don’t get it.
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” -John Piper
So my positive result really truly is positive! And even if it takes a turn for the worse, and we have the most miserable week, or even if the worst-case scenario happens and we die, we can say with absolute certainty that it is not an error of God. There are no false-negatives or false-positives in God’s book. God’s ways are positively perfect, and in that we can rest our everything: even COVID-19.