When Jordan picked me up from the hospital on Monday, I squinted. It was overcast, a cloud cover falling over the highway. Drops of rain spattered across the windshield. Still, I felt somehow blinded by the brightness of daylight after my long stent in ICU. All I could mutter was, “This is so weird.”
On March 19th, when Jordan drove my feverish, shaking body to the ER, it was still spring break. Life, though paused for the sake of social isolation, still felt some-what normal. At that point, Corona’s ominous threat still felt a bit unreal, and we could still pretend that life was normal. Twelve days later, the world looked a bit like a ghost-town. Cars still speckled the highway, but parking lots stood vacant, establishments were closed, windows dark; And the sense of “apocalypse” echoed in the empty spaces lacking signs of life. Over and over, like a broken record, I repeated, “This is so weird.”
And so I was released from my almost-death bed into a world that felt as if it were dying.
Trauma, trauma, trauma…..It was everywhere I looked. Grief seemed to be wrapping its arms around the vacancies. I realized that my trauma of the previous 12 days, though somewhat different from the collective trauma of the world, offered another harmony to the already painful minor-key song that the world was already singing. My joy of miraculous recovery collided with the pain of a broken world.
The multi-faceted collision of emotions felt too painful to bear.
The whole world is teetering on the edge of lament as COVID-19 ravages the larger cities and weaves its very real tentacles of death into the smaller ones. The cold hand of death touches all: No one is left unaffected.
“Unprecedented” is the word that flows out of nearly every mouth that speaks of these times. We have no framework for this. Every person’s paradigm has had to shift to allow for space for the now very real idea of “pandemic”.
Our household is learning to live within the paradigm shift that comes with the presence of COVID, and we are also learning to live within the reality that I dangled between life a death for a solid two weeks.
All of that pain, with the still very real sting of a terrifying winter, with Lily’s asthma crisis, Jordan’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis and his dance with death in February when his blood sugar reached 589, and the fact that our household has been the modern-day version of The Oregon Trail computer game long before the world joined us in this precarious position. I suppose that the silver lining to all of this is that we have some experience in this “livin’ on a prayer” lifestyle before the rest of the world came along side of us. The painful part of this reality is that with our precarious medical position, our place in this pandemic continues to remain painfully precarious.
Except…we’re not unstable.
In Christ, we are unshaken and we will remain unshaken. I have many words to describe my time in ICU (agonizing, torture, acute pain), but “shaken” is not one of those words. In fact, I have emerged (and I would venture to say that our family has emerged) even more rooted, grounded, and stable that I ever thought possible. Over the past week, a passage from scripture has continued to bounce around my brain like a ping-pong ball, whispering its truth in the shadows of the night as I drift off asleep and challenging any anxieties as they pop up throughout the day:
“His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” …..This expression, “Yet once more” denotes the removing of those things which cannot be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29, NASB).
After reading and typing this verse, I sit here in awe. I forgot the last line of this passage: Our God is a consuming fire. Our God, the consuming fire, who burns within us with a fiery intensity, and yet never destroys us in the burning. All that is not of God, of course, is consumed, but what remains is the true self, the one God created us to be: And we keep burning, just as the burning bush that blazed with intensity before Moses’ eyes, as he took off his sandals in the presence of holiness. God is an all-consuming fire, and in His burning, we are never destroyed. Quite the contrary: The dross melts off, and we are left pure, anointed, and still blazing. (Taken from Exodus 3:1-9).
This is an uncomfortable season for all. In many ways, we are all in the same boat. We have, however, a choice in how we respond to the unprecedented instability that we face. That choice is ever before us, and if the Spirit of the sovereign Lord (who reigns above it all) dwells within us, if we are abiding (John 15) in Christ, then we have all we need to grow our roots deeper into the soil of the most High God, the one who is the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:17), the One who, when all the shakable things have fallen to rubble, remains unshaken.
That is our Kingdom, friends, if we know Jesus. This does not mean that we will remain comfortable. We are subject to the suffering of the world, to the pain of loss, and to the agony of the birth-pangs that the world is feeling right now. The empaths among us feel the pain of the globe and weep in our prayer closets and on our night-watches, hearts broken. The difference, however, is that the Prince of Peace is here, guarding our hearts, giving us sound minds, and reminding us of our roots that go down deep into the Keeper of Peace. We will remain unshaken: In life, in death, and in resurrection life.
Don’t lose heart. Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. And keep putting one foot in front of the other as the Lord is the One who lights your feet on this strange and painful path that we traverse. And the joy of the Lord will forever be our strength.