Shaking the night’s slumber from my head, I begged,“Hey, give me a kiss”. Connie kept walking out of our bedroom. From the hall she called out “my covid test came back positive” Within an hour I was in line at Nissan Stadium. A company of National Guard soldiers politely and professionally administered my test. I texted Belmont with the bad news. Back home, I joined Belmont’s weekly Regathering Team on zoom, feeling better about our cautious approach to the pandemic. I mentally retraced the weekend trying to remember anyone I spoke with. I texted them, knowing I had worn my mask, stayed six feet apart, and engaged in less than a ten minute conversation with anyone. The potentialities stirred fears and tears. What if I had infected others? What if I was sick? What if…
During the day, I thought about my advanced medical directives. Twenty eight years in ministry has let me see medical outcomes worse than death. I prayed over Connie, elderly loved ones, our boys, and our many church communities. I began accessing my vocation: do I play it too safe? Do I defer to the institutional church too often? I love our imperfect church. It has nourished me and taught me to do justly, show compassion, and offer forgiveness. Do I worry about leaning out too far? Not so much- I know that so many are so deeply committed to defending the theological status quo. Any institutional church generally only embraces innovations in style not substance. What about the prophetic voice? In Matthew 23, Jesus speaks of the faithful’s deep resistance to any prophetic understanding that might loosen oppressive yokes or name corporate sin. “I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will crucify, some you will beat down before church councils and some you will chase out of town.” (adapted) Health scares invite such vocational self-assessments. As Bon Jovi ruminated, “It’s my life, It’s now or never…I just want to live while I’m alive”.
With Pastor Kate secured to preach this Sunday, Connie and I divided our house in quarantine zones. We are blessed with two porches. She let me keep my front porch office. I gave her the living room and our bedroom. I unboxed an extra TV and ran spare HDMI to the guest bedroom. Raised by clean-cut, counter-cultural, educationally minded, anti-television, Baptist parents I grew up without cable or color television. I savor the deterrent of a single family TV. I “praised the Lord” that I had resisted that decluttering rule when I found 30 feet of old HDMI cord in an unopened moving box with a TV that Caleb won at Project Graduation.
The weather could not be better for a quarantine. The leaves are transforming. All manor of yellows, reds, and browns emerge from the many green hues. Do the leaves cling to the tree or do they rejoice to catch a gust of wind? I have books, resources, insurance, online grocery options, and a community that loves me. Not everyone enjoys the peace these comforts bring. If during this pandemic, we can not see that everyone deserves access to affordable healthcare and paid sick leave, then perhaps we have lost touch with God’s compassion and our humanity.
After 48 hours my results came in: “Covid- Not Detected” I was deeply relieved. Immediately that scratchy feeling in my throat felt more like oak leaf irritation than Covid 19. I texted everyone the good news. One dear friend replied that they “low-key freaked out” when they got my initial text. Did I cause undue stress or act proactively- who knows? These are unusually challenging times as we battle a novel (new or unusual) virus. I am symptom free and have a negative test result. Connie just re-tested negative as well. However, I may be positive even as I write this. It can take 2-14 days for the virus to emerge. My doctor advised me to remain in quarantine for two weeks. I will trust her expertise over my internet wisdom!
How is my soul? I am not presently angry with those who minimize the virus or the efficacy of masks. I do lament that for a variety of political and personal reasons some people do not care enough for others to make some very modest sacrifices. I grieve that our nation that took “one giant (scientific) leap for humankind” on my third birthday now continues to slide backwards, trusting individual experiences over the insights of our best doctors and leading scientists. More than that, I grieve that as Christians we are losing our commitment to the common good. We are all preoccupied with self-interest. Have we “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” choosing to feed our congregations with well-packaged personalized spiritual junk food or the warm leftovers of old time religion? (Matthew 23:23)
In two weeks, I hope to leave this modest quarantine healthy, whole and having internalized a few lessons. When my life one day ends, I hope I am not angry with anyone, bitter about anything, or regret some indecision. I hope, that many years from now, I leave behind nothing but love. Until that day- I just want to live while I’m alive. As to my soul, I think I am alright.