It may appear that I haven’t posted in a while during a time that is very critical to all of us, especially those who are at greater risk for complications if they were to contract the deadly Coronavirus. I did write this a few weeks ago, and though the situation has worsened in the time since, the message is surely still relevant.
However, I have, in fact, been writing, just on a different page on the website. On that page, you will find messages that I have written primarily for my church in lieu of my usual bulletin article that I write for bulletins that we print when we meet together. We are meeting together right now, hence the special page.
All the while, I’ve been meaning to get back to my main blog which is normally addressed to those who struggle with chronic pain and illness. I’m always trying to find an angle or a special topic that relates to this group, of which I am a part. But like everyone, I’ve been overwhelmed in so many ways. I thought I would just use this space as a journal for a moment and share some of my personal thoughts and experiences. If that doesn’t interest you, I won’t judge you! Maybe I just find it cathartic to mark this strange time in history with what was going on through my own mind.
Like most people, I watched the story of a novel virus in China that began spreading around the world unfold gradually. I knew there was some concern when the virus reached our shores, but I never envisioned it affecting my personal life or the life of those I knew.
The moment my awareness of the virus changed, I was at church on a Wednesday night. After Bible class, someone told me they had just canceled the NBA game between the OKC Thunder and the Jazz. Most people where I live are Thunder fans, so they were on top of the news pretty quick. Rudy Gobert, of the Jazz, had been confirmed to have COVID-19. They cleared the arena, and by the time I got home, the NBA had suspended its season.
It was like the first domino in a major chain reaction. Other leagues, industries, and businesses quickly followed suit. The whole world was coming to a stop, and the experts from the CDC and W.H.O. were saying it should. Social distancing became a term known to all. We didn’t immediately cancel church services, as the virus still seemed faraway from Woodward.
The reactions to this fallout was disappointing to me, at least. So many people tried to portray those taking proactive steps to curb the virus as hysterical and panicky. The experts were either conflated with the mass hysteria–and there was some of that to be fair–or dismissed them as being politically motivated. It didn’t help that the President constantly downplayed the crisis, and many who thought they knew better than the experts were following his lead.
This was coupled with an attitude that diminished the lives that were being lost, either by comparing it to something else that people die of–like the flu–or, worse, saying that it was only older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions who were dying. People clamored for evidence that the pandemic was worthy of drastic measures and ignored the evidence where the outbreak had got out of control (like Italy) or that the very measures they were criticizing were preventing the very worst-case scenario they mockingly said had not come.
As the numbers skyrocketed in America and New York and New Jersey became our own dire Italy story, these pandemic deniers mostly disappeared. Of course, I’ve not seen one person admit they were wrong in the beginning!
That doesn’t mean social media has been all bad. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the humor about quarantine and toilet paper and all of it. It isn’t a funny situation; that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some funny moments that allow us to hold on to our sanity! I personally thought the comparisons to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” were the best!
As the news got worse, the impact became more personal. School was canceled. Church no longer met in person. Essential businesses were closed. I never felt more like I was in a movie scene than when I picked up my kids’ assignments in school drive-thru’s from teachers wearing masks. Home, where we all spend most of our time, was challenging with three kids of my own and two foster kids. Balancing between my ever evolving role as a minister and extra demands at home has been my hardest challenge. But then again, that is far easier than a loved one being in the hospital, possibly dying, and not being able to be with them.
A sign in my town, Woodward, OK. A “sign” of the times.
How humbling it is to to see the entire human race brought to a standstill by an invisible assassin. But how encouraging it is to be reminded of our common humanity and need for God! It is also been heart-warming to see expressions of solidarity with health care workers and others, not to mention incredible acts of sacrifice.
Like many of you, I am at higher risk for serious complications due to medicines I take that suppress my immune system. It still felt like a remote possibility until another pastor in town got seriously sick with COVID-19 symptoms. I presume that he is in better health than me, so that was a wake-up call (He has recovered). That same day we had our first (and still only) confirmed case in our county. We are not in, by any definition, a hot zone, but I felt vulnerable that day and ever since.
No, I am not afraid, but the entire saga seems so surreal. If I did get sick, I am sure I would experience the fear of the “what-if.” I hate that people are losing jobs. I hate that the world economy is falling off a cliff. Mostly I hate that people are dying and many of them alone.
No, my faith is not hurt. If anything, the Bible teaches us to expect such episodes of human suffering while we await the return of the Lord. But I do worry that some people’s faith may be hurt. Every step we can take toward normalcy will be a good one. Let’s hold on to the Lord and each other.