COVID Journey Day 1
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
Psalm 139: 7-8; 11-12
The doctor tells me I'm positive. Then he gives me every reason to be positive. "You're young and healthy", he points out. Another highly-decorated medical professional assures me the odds are ever in my favor. Right after she enumerates a medicinal protocol based on the latest research from peer-reviewed sources and established authorities. And then there are all the friends and friend-of-friends who beat it and shouted it out on Facebook. All signs point to a simple fact: I can get over COVID-19.
But what the hell do they know?
I'm the guy who did everything he could to avoid catching this stuff. I worked from home, washed my hands ceremonially, bathed in hand sanitizer, avoided people like they were lava-monsters belching up bubonic plague. By the time COVID got me, I was even wearing two masks at the same time. I exuded all the hallmarks of a hypochondriac Pharisee whose legalistic fervor led him to the place where going Wrigley's on his phylacteries seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
I did all this because I know a few things these nurses probably don't:
- I know my family medical history
- I know my own medical history
- I have extreme anxiety when it comes to my health (which conveniently enough causes some of the same symptoms requiring hospitalization)
- I am scared of dying (and yet…)
- I am more scared of suffering
Back Up A Bit
It all started when the text came: down a drummer for this Sunday's service. Can you step in? Well, let's add this up: most of the team has already had it, right? And I always play behind plexiglass like the pope on wheels. And I don't hang out in confined spaces. And my double-barrel mask. But most important of all -- it is for God! He gave me this ability to play and I do enjoy playing for Him, with His people. A quick double check of my calculus and I hit the "Accept" button.
Sunday comes and goes.
Then the email a couple days later. Someone on the team tested positive. Be safe. Oh. Well. Crap. My freak-out tank hyper-fills from E to F. Anxiety begets symptoms. Vitals are taken multiple times a day. Relief. I'm ok for now. But I need to make it to day 6-7 when most symptoms statistically appear. And then monitor until day 14. Such vigilance ensures I will not be caught off-guard. But the slightest change and…bam! Anxiety. We begin our dance again. Who says perpetual motion is impossible?
I did everything right. And in the end, it still didn't matter. God is going to hear about this from me. And I have every confidence He will answer. I just have to be ready when he brings up hippos.
Back to the nurses
So when my trusted health care advisors offer up their assurances based on data and evidence and facts…all I think is: SO WHAT??? Don't you know how special I am? My existence defies the odds and expectations in the worst way. Because I am not like everyone else, you see. Normal doesn't apply to me. I am the weird guy. I am circumstantially unique. I am the special case that frames the bell curve, the one experts warn about. I am the very definition of an edge case. Because deep down, that is what special folk do. We. Don't. Do. Normal.
And I must not whither into the beige folds of that banal wallpaper called everyone else's life on Earth. How mundane! I cannot be summed up by some statistical smear consigning me to the tragic pile of also rans who didn't make it after all. A fate worse than death, really. I can hear them now. What was his name again? I dunno. He thought he was special. But he was ultimately just one of the 0.4%. Maybe he had hopes and dreams and a loving wife, proud mother, supportive friends. And a vibrant faith he believed would guide him around the sinkholes. And maybe it did just that for a while. But the odds…they ultimately got him in the end. Things just didn't pan out so obviously for this poor imperceptible little dot. Just like all these other dots. Dots like stars. Scintillating. Socially distanced points flickering out all too soon in the void. No matter. Anymore.
Speaking of stars
My friend Scott would often bring up pride way back in the days when we could grab coffee without reservation. And then he would fold in C. S. Lewis. And then tell me how Mr. Lewis would write about how pride is the chief of all sins. To paraphrase it my way: pride is the sun in a kind of selfish, hell-spun galaxy whirling fiendishly in the heart of every man, woman, and child. Around it orbits all other kinds of sins (lust, envy, malice, self-pity, etc.) but at the creamy nougat center is this burning mass of me-matter drawing all concerns in on itself. Keeping those kindred sins in orbit is the gravitational belief that somehow I deserve more than a meaningless life and a pitiful whimper-of-a-demise. When I go supernova, I must be known.
Yes, reader. I see it too. Pride casts a long shadow over me. Even here? Even now? Yes. Even here. Even now.
And now the fire alarm has started chirping in the hallway every two minutes.
This must be how Job felt.