What will your pandemic legacy be?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. One, five, ten, thirty years from now, what will I want–and not want–to say when someone asks, “How did you live through that?”

For many months now, I feel like I’ve just been surviving…one day at a time, one foot after the other, one more morning waking up and wondering what horrors are in store for us next. If you’re like me, your brain has physiologically resorted to a sort of constant fight-or-flight syndrome, like troops on call for a battle. 

And that’s just plain exhausting. 

I didn’t realize what a pit I was living in until I found a Bible study on the armor of God*–or rather, it found me. I started reading the Bible again (and I’d been sorely remiss about that). I hadn’t asked God to change my heart. I was too worn out to realize I needed changed. But like the good, good father that He is, He knew. And He rescued me. 

All around us, it seems everything has changed, and indeed, much has. But in a way, nothing has changed at all. We are–as we have always been–in a battle for our souls. That may seem strong, but Jesus assured us in John 16:33 that in this world we will have trouble. Granted, the trouble of these days is worse than most of us have ever faced. But our choice in how we respond in the long run is just that–a choice

Many times, only the phrase about trouble in John 16:33 is quoted. But leaving it at that eliminates the most precious promises:


***

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 TMV

***

Jesus warned us about hard times not so that we would worry and despair, but so we would be unshakeable and assured and deeply at peace.

But how?

How can we feel assured when the whole world seems to be falling apart? How can we be at peace–and not only that but deeply at peace–when loved ones are dying and spouses have lost jobs and new graduates can’t find them and on and on with the blaring headlines and anger and fear? 

Because God’s promises are greater than feelings. God’s promises are truth, and truth is hope. And as the protagonist in my novel, Before I Saw You says on the very first page, 

“Hope means everything when you’ve got nothing.”

No one knows how long we will face this pandemic and its challenges. But we can know that we are not alone and we can find peace in the hope of Jesus. 

If I can encourage you to do anything, friends, it would be to rededicate yourself to reading the Bible every day (if you aren’t already). Not only that, but make the Bible the very first thing you read every day. There are some great Bible apps for smart phones these days (I use YouVersion), and since–it’s okay to admit it–our phones are the first things we grab when we open our eyes in the morning, a Bible app is a great way to incorporate the Word first in your day. Not Facebook. Not the weather app. Not Twitter or the news or Instagram, but the Word. And while you’re at it, pray your armor on every morning, too. 

Start your days with the Word, and see how the assurance and hope God freely offers begins to change your heart and perspective. 

I don’t want to look back on these days and realize I was a frightened and angry person. I don’t want to look back and regret the bad habits I’ve developed and poor coping skills. I want to look back and be able to say that I had victory over these days because I spent them safely in the strong tower of His love and mercy. 

May I close this with a prayer for you? 

Lord, we are weary. We are burdened. We are scared. Send your peace to each person reading this today, and in the days to come. Give us the discipline we need to focus on you and your Word, so that these dark days do not steal our joy, and so that we can live with the unshakeable assurance that you–and only you–have overcome the world. We praise you for who you are, and that you so mercifully love us so, in spite of ourselves. Amen.

A tale of two cities: a nurse in the midst of COVID

It was the best of times…

…buds on trees and people walking their dogs and riding their bikes and setting groceries on the stoops of shut ins and dads playing with their kids on front lawns on sunny spring days and seamstresses sewing masks and the camaraderie of nurses and doctors and RTs and PTs and OTs and techs and social workers, best of friends bracing for all we trained and live for. 

It was the worst of times…

…numbers tripling, front lines failing, ventilator rationing, health care workers dying, jobs disappearing, shelves emptying, spirits falling, and ice rinks converting to morgues.

It was the age of wisdom…

…people listening to experts, families staying at home and washing hands and honoring others and nodding at each other from across the street in the name of humaneness and humanity as scientists hunch over lab tables and doctors trial hope and administrators shuffle beds and recycle masks and try to do no harm to their very own.

It was the age of foolishness…

…sacrificing loved ones in the name of beaches and bikinis and sex and selfishness and helplessness and saying efforts are exaggerated and overblown and it’s all a farce and all partisan and parties like 1999 with utter disregard for life.

It was the epoch of belief…

…that a Sovereign is bigger than a disease, that a Savior is in the midst of our feverish terror, that waters recede and oceans part and stones eventually roll away.

It was the epoch of incredulity…

…that our invincible selves and invincible lives and invincible stocks and bank accounts and high falutin’ stuff means absolutely nothing after all in the face of an invisible monster.

It was the season of Light…

…candles still burning on birthday cakes, stars all the brighter in still, cool nights, porch lights beacons testifying to resilience surviving behind closed doors.

It was the season of Darkness…

…masks unable to hide the wide-eyed dread health care workers feel facing patient after patient gasping for air, lungs filling with fluid, kidneys failing, hearts clinging to life, praying for miracles, all the while praying they aren’t the next ones to get the virus and end up being the ones who are turned and cleaned and suctioned and assessed and treated in vain.

It was the spring of hope…

…daffodils blooming and hyacinths cheering on the arrival of green and growing life, nature blissful in ignorance and all the while eager in its pursuit of tomorrow. 

It was the winter of despair…

…nurses wearing trash bags and patients draped and dying and families watching from screens, only watching, via (face)time as their mothers and brothers and fathers and daughters lives slip away, alone, behind impermeable (im)personal protective equipment, no one to touch them, no one to hold them, no one to tell them it’s okay to go, the rest of us will carry on. Alone. But for the nurses. Who help them leave. 

We had everything before us…

…weddings and tournaments, graduations and bar mitzvahs, play dates and class projects and concerts, baptisms and golden anniversaries and last trips to the beach, and new jobs and new homes and all the reasons to live as though the world would never end.

We had nothing before us…

…no end in sight, no cures, no answers, no end to the rising numbers of patients, no slowing of fibrillating Wall Street and rising unemployment, no toilet paper, no rice, no bread, no break.

We were all going direct to Heaven…

…at least we hoped so, the ones who lay in ICUs with unwanted tubes breathing for them, and unwanted machines replacing their kidneys, and nurses and doctors and aides and hospital workers not quitting because we don’t quit and won’t quit and we never, ever quit.

We were all going direct the other way…

…the ones who blame and shame and hoard and elbow through restrictions because they deserve to and don’t care and don’t try to understand this is not a hoax even though it feels like a great big huge one, and even though we want more than anything, in the middle of the night, to wake up and be able to laugh at what a ridiculous nightmare, what a strange and ludicrous joke the brain is playing on us because this can’t possibly be real. 

Can it?

 

*Lines in bold from the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities