I was going through my blog in the “drafts” section to see what things I had started and then never finished to try to clean it up. I came upon this blog that I had started a year ago – the night before Anna was coming back from Kenya unexpectedly early and we were getting ready to go on what we thought would be a singular lock-down just to make sure she wasn’t sick. By the time I reached the store the news of Europe closing it’s borders was hitting and people were starting to panic, so I walked into a jam-packed store (that was pre-mask and social distance order) and this is what played out:
“It’s real…That knot in your chest. The lump that you try really hard to swallow. The short, fast breaths that make you tell yourself to breathe deep and count slowly.
In this time of uncertainty I feel it pressing in constantly. Last night I was in the store and it was as though I was walking through a movie scene for a dystopian movie. The lines were all the way to the back. People’s carts were full of whatever they could put in. The store had no milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper, flour…the shelves were empty. I had only gone in to get a few key things, but as I sat and watched others I started to panic and anxiety crept in. Maybe I should stand in line for the next couple of hours and buy all the cheese, pasta, and peanut butter I could find. Or maybe I really do need all the gatorade I can fit in my cart. Or maybe I should buy all the medicine I could find because we are bound to get this virus and have fevers and might run out of gatorade but Tylenol would take the fevers down, but RJ can’t swallow a lot of pills so I should buy a bunch of kinds so that I could be sure of having something he could take, but then what if he still can’t and then he’s really sick and we have no food and people have gone crazy…kind of like my mind in that moment.
Last night in the store I came across a few people that reminded me of something important – this life is not all about me. I stood as I was waiting (patiently, I promise!) for a store employee to move his cart that he was stocking shelves with and I looked around me. There was a young man about my oldest son’s age. He looked a little shell shocked, honestly. He had some pasta, some granola bars, and a box of milk in his hands. He was looking at Tuna but seemed a bit like he had no clue what he should be doing. I wanted to tell him to walk alongside me and let me help him figure this out, that he wasn’t alone. I wanted to give him some sort of assurance that he was doing the right thing in buying a little extra, but that he should not give into the fear that was pulsing through the store. I wanted to – but I didn’t. Because in the moment I was scared and panicky. I was thinking of my own son and wondering if someone would help him in this situation, because how does a 22 year old young man on his own for the first time know how to react and prepare when it seems like the world has gone mad?
I also saw an older woman trying to get a few things. I helped get something off a shelf for her as people rushed by ignoring her because by this point I was starting to get my senses back. As I prayed against the fear I felt my own panic subsiding.
I think we are going to be facing some new, uncharted things here in the next couple of months. We are not a country that really knows how to do crisis well. We’ve lived in places where we had to evacuate from war and go on lock down due to election instability, and I never saw the chaos that I saw last night in the grocery store. May God show us clearly what he wants us to learn from this. “
Did you catch your breath as you read? I know that now, on this side of things, I can see how scared we were as a country. We have seen half a million deaths in the US during this pandemic that were related to the virus. Probably no one reading this was spared knowing someone personally who suffered greatly in some way because of it. Jobs have been lost, houses lost, marriages and families that were already taxed disintegrated during quarantine, and some people who lived on their own spent months never seeing another person or having any sort of human touch.
Yet here we are at what seems to be the end of it. What did we learn? Or better yet, what are we learning?
This weekend I saw my newborn nephew. I had been considering and reconsidering going, worried about if I would bring something to him unknowingly. But my sister really wanted me there, and as I sat and cuddled him and I stroked his fuzzy, perfect little head and breathed in newborn baby, I felt hope again. My niece who had come as well fell in love with him and said he was a powerful baby. I had to agree – there was something almost intoxicating about this new little, extremely miraculous life that we were holding. He reminded me that God was not absent from the events surrounding us this last year, but that even in those he showed himself powerful, merciful, and redemptive.
See, my sister and her husband had tried for over a decade to have kids. Hope sprung up a time or two only to be dashed violently in the pain of miscarriage. Then Lincoln happened. In the middle of trauma and chaos and pandemic and pain, a new life was formed. He was not the “Covid” baby – ones that were birthed from the extra time at home that we are seeing happen all around us (not that those are any less miraculous or full of hope!) But here was a living, breathing, beautiful, seven-and-a-half-pound bundle of life that we had prayed for over and over again for years. God chose to answer that prayer in the middle of one of the darkest times our world has seen in recently.
It makes me think of another baby born into chaos, darkness, and hopelessness. One who came and brought joy, healing, and True Life with His birth. So what have I learned this year? I have learned (and forgotten and relearned many times) that no matter how dark it seems my God has not forsaken me. He leans in and listens. He catches my tears. He hems me in, behind and before. And when it seems darkest, he brings redemption and life that starts to seep into the cracks of the walls I have built up around me and he reminds me of the true victory that is mine through him. I am so thankful for that.