What I learned about COVID 19 without watching the news
I learned some things during my recent bout with COVID 19.
For example, I learned it is very difficult to keep a pile of blankets organized when you are tossing and turning with fever and chills. I think a huge clothespin to clip the corners together would be helpful.
I also learned that one advantage of being that sick is not knowing or caring much about what’s going on outside the house. I didn’t have any energy for the news, but I also had no interest in it. It was too politicized and sensationalized. Waves of clickbait subsided, thankfully, beneath twisted blankets of blissful silence. I hope I remember how grateful I was.
Almost three weeks later, I’m certainly grateful to be on the other side of this. It started on Monday evening, March 16, with chills, followed by the fever and cough the next. By the next Monday, I was in an isolation unit in the ER where an x-ray confirmed I had viral pneumonia. They sent me home, as they should have since there was no treatment available and I didn’t have and have not had shortness of breath. They didn’t tell me I had COVID 19, although I think they wanted to. (We had gone to a drive-thru testing site on the second day and didn’t get the results until 12 days later after I had turned a corner toward strength.)
That first week, in addition to the fever and cough, I lost my appetite and my energy. My chest hurt. My head hurt. I’d sit in a chair for a few minutes and then go back to bed. We set a timer and every 30 minutes my wife Katie would give me a glass of water, which I sipped through a straw because I couldn’t sit up. My son Michael in Chicago took over communication with the family and others. He and my wife and my supervisor had an intervention one day and made me give up the illusion that I might go back to work anytime soon.
I had brain fog, although some would argue it’s not fair to blame that on the virus. I remember how overwhelming it was to try and answer a text. The screen seemed so small and the ideas seemed too complicated. I quit trying. Reading a book was beyond me. I tried to listen to the sermon from our church last Sunday and fell asleep. Katie and I managed a brief devotion each morning, from Faith’s Checkbook by Charles Spurgeon.
Sleep was the thing I wanted most, so I was ready for the March 25th devotional based on Proverbs 3:24: “When thou liest down, thou shall not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.” Spurgeon writes, “If with our lying down there is a laying down of all cares and ambitions, we shall get refreshment out of our beds such as the anxious and covetous never find in theirs.”
It took being sick for a week to be ready for this. And two of those texts that had seemed so overwhelming illustrate my path. The first, in a text to my kids, was on the 18th, the day I was tested. I wrote: “We’ll just hunker down.” This is hardly a bold statement of faith. But it’s good to remember that our illusions of control seldom serve us well. There was literally nothing I could do. Or anybody could do, really. No calls to make, no pills to take, no one to blame, no shortcut to take. That’s not to say we didn’t seek care and counsel. We have a nurse coming in and a telemonitoring system that sends my vital signs somewhere. I’m grateful for the professionals who have served me well. It was just the recognition that this would run its course and we would have to wait. There was, in fact, nothing to do.
The second text was more important. It is something Katie wrote to our son on the 20th, just as things began to get particularly nasty. She wrote: “We wait on the results of the swab and pray for the Lord to protect your dad. I am also praying I will trust and love the will of our Heavenly Father. Your dad belongs to Him.”
Emotionally I can’t actually unpack this for you. I wept when I read it. One night I fell beside the bed and couldn’t get up. Katie was sleeping downstairs and I didn’t want to wake her. I sat there, waiting for the strength to crawl back up on the bed, and picked up my phone and read these words and cried again. This was not just because I was fragile and exhausted, although I was. It was because it says something true about Katie and it says something true about me. And it says something very true about God.
Anyone who is as sick as I was, needs a caregiver to come alongside them in quiet faith, not adding to the chorus of nervous and anxious voices in the media. I was grateful for Katie and I was grateful for colleagues and elders who were thoughtful, encouraging and concerned, checking on me each day. I was grateful too for friends and church members who gave us space and silence. Also important. We were surrounded by love.
But Katie’s text reveals more than a calmness of spirit. She is praying that she will “trust and love the will of our Heavenly Father,” even if things do not go well. It’s similar to something a young mom in our church wrote Katie when her son was going through an MRI a few weeks earlier, “praying fervently to love His will over my own.” It is an unbroken chain of prayers throughout the history of the church, that in difficult times we would learn to trust and love the will of our Heavenly Father. Not just to trust it, but to love it. That He draws this out in Katie, or in any of us, is a manifestation of His character, His faithfulness over a lifetime, His gentle revelation of Himself. This is Holy ground.
And this is the truth I needed: “Your Dad belongs to Him.” In this truth, I can lie down and not be afraid and sleep the sweet sleep of the saints, literally or metaphorically. This is where real rest is found. When you’re out on the edge, this is what you need to know. You belong to Him.
Sometime this week our home health nurse expects the county health department will move me over into the recovered column. Food tastes good again. It is supposed to be warm and clear Thursday and we are planning to go for a walk. Many faithful friends, at home and at work, have prayed for us and helped us and are rejoicing with us. We are blessed and grateful. I might try texting again, although I’m not yet ready for a 24-hour news cycle.
But I am ready for the Lord to continue to reveal His character and purpose, especially in the darkest days. Because I’m learning not just to trust His will, but to love it.
And because I’m His.