COVID19 is a difficult, but masterful teacher. On March 29th, my wife and I tested positive for the virus. When our doctors called us with our test results, we experienced a wide range of intense emotions: sadness, discouragement, and fear. As I brooded over my Coronavirus experience, God has taught several unexpected lessons.
When our middle son, Micah, came home from Wayne State, sick, we didn’t really think anything of it. We assumed he had a bad cold or was battling allergies. But, several days after his arrival and when Tonia fell ill, with what we thought was the flu – chills, high fever, body aches, and coughing – we sat up and paid closer attention. During this time, I was constantly checking myself for fever and for shortness of breath. No problems – 98.6 and still working out. It was all good. Then, four or five days after Tonia became sick and started to recover, I starting experiencing a low-grade fever (99.1), but no other symptoms – yet.
The COVID19 Test and Results
Curious about whether we had the Coronavirus, on March 26th, we decided to get tested. The test was no joke. I will spare you the details. Let me say, it was eight really really uncomfortable seconds. Seriously. Three days later, the doctors called us with the disruptive news: “You’ve tested positive for COVID19. Quarantine yourself for 14 days and if you begin to experience shortness of breath, go to the hospital immediately. Also, you will receive a call from the CDC the next day or so. In the meantime, stay hydrated and get rest.” No hand-holding. Just the facts. Suddenly, there were waves of emotions:
Sadness Discouragement Fear Guilt Grief
… and a barrage of unanticipated questions:
When will we experience shortness of breath and have to be rushed to the hospital? Am I going to die? Is somebody in my family going to die? Will we die alone? God, why me? Why am I suffering? Why are the wicked prospering, but we’re sick?
You have to understand that all the reports we saw in the media were mostly negative. I figured someone or multiple people in our family were going to be part of the global map. I know that’s morbid and not super-spiritual, but it was our reality for this moment in time. Our night ended with our children coming to our room and praying with and for us. We went to sleep, trying to rest in God’s sovereign plan for our lives.
COVID19 disrupted our lives and forced us to invite God to go beneath the iceberg and begin a deep work there. When I gave him permission, he taught me some unexpected lessons.
I Can Be Sad and Afraid
When the doctor called with the results for my COVID19 test, I told myself that I couldn’t be sad or afraid. I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to always wear the armor of joy, encouragement, and courage. Never let them see you sweat, have all the answers, and be strong for everybody else, even if that’s not your reality. Image management. Us pastors are really good at this. I WAS afraid, discouraged, and sad. And, I felt guilty for having those emotions. But, I finally gave myself permission to be human. I didn’t have to manage an image. I could lament and introduce my fears to my Father.
I’m Not Special
COVID19 is indiscriminate. It attacks the old, young, all ethnicities, and yes, pastors. However, two of my fellow pastors in the Lansing area have died due to the Coronavirus. My heart breaks for their families and their congregations. Now, I don’t know why I survived and my fellow pastors died. But, I know that I’m not all that special. Yes, I know I am precious to my Heavenly Father. But, I don’t have some special anointing or righteousness that allowed me and my family to survive. It is all God’s grace. I receive it with humility and gratitude.
I Can Only Control the Controllable
Following Jesus is about surrendering control of our lives to him. I could not control our family contracting COVID19, but I could control my response to having the virus. It was difficult for me to control my symptoms – chills, fever, coughing, really bad diarrhea, nightmares, foggy brain, and the loss of taste and smell – but I could control my rhythms to rest, stay hydrated, and follow the recommendations from healthcare workers and governmental officials. I can’t control the length of the Governor’s stay at home orders, but I can control my attitude and the use of my time while quarantined. I surrendered my control to God. For, I can only control the controllable.
God Speaks Through Orange Juice
During my skirmish with COVID19, I lost my sense of taste and smell for six days. This was probably the most frightening and discouraging part about having the virus. I didn’t have an appetite, so I didn’t eat much. But, around day six at three o’clock in the morning, God gave me a “little” gift. After not being able to taste and smell, he gave me a craving for orange juice. This was weird because I had not craved anything for six days, and I don’t drink a lot of orange juice. I was too tired to go upstairs to the kitchen and get some, but by faith, I received God’s gift of orange juice to me at that moment. Later that morning, I went upstairs and had that cup of orange juice, and it never tasted so good. God gives gifts to his children, and his gifts don’t disappoint.
Needing Others Breaks Pride
I’m a pastor. I pray for people. I don’t need people to pray for me, right? How insidious to our souls and odious to God! So, when we tested positive for COVID19, I invited the Body of Jesus to pray for us. But, I felt guilty for doing so. If I haven’t told you, I’m the pastor. Similar to giving myself permission to feel, I needed to give myself permission to need others. A funny thing happened. God began to expose and break the pride that I didn’t know was there. I don’t have to be strong all the time. It’s all right and quite biblical to need others and let them carry your burdens. Followers of Jesus all over the world carried our load and we felt the effects of their prayers.
I have recovered well and I feel strong. I am grateful for the COVID19 experience because God taught me some lessons about him and myself that deepened my transformation. I simply would not have learned these lessons if it was not for that difficult and masterful teacher – COVID19.
What unexpected lessons is God teaching you and your family during this season?