I was waiting.
I had words.
“David! If you're going to come home past 11 p.m. you have to call or text and let me know what's going on! We live in the Icebox of the Nation and the Community Center is at least a mile away. I don’t care if you ride your bike, but it’s the month of March, 18 degrees outside and we still have at least a foot of snow. Your bike doesn’t have snow tires. I worry. You're all alone in the theater and I don't know what's going on unless you tell me.”
David had words, too.
He stood in the entryway of the house, hanging up his coat while I sat on the couch.
“Mom! I’m stressed. A lot is going on. I don't even know if the show is going to happen because of this virus. I’ve been painting and working on the set for hours, figuring out the music, props, costumes and all other elements but I’m worried that in the six days remaining, it’s not going to happen. I have homework, the speech meet was canceled and I’m processing that. I have a lot of people counting on me, including me, and your yelling is stressing me out even more. I’m sorry I didn't call, it's just that…”
David’s voice broke. He didn’t want to cry. He wanted to be brave, yet it takes bravery to be vulnerable, too, to be honest about who you are and where you’re at.
Fortunately, my “Mama Bear Love” kicked in and I told him to come and sit on the couch with me. I put a pillow on my lap and my 6-foot lanky teenager put his head down as I combed through his hair with my fingers.
"Go ahead and cry, David. Let it out, crying is cleansing and cathartic.”
He did, a little softly at first but as I encouraged, he sobbed out all the frustration, anger and disappointment. He was grieving, but in-between sobs he would say, “I think you're really going to like the show. The set is coming together nicely and my actors seem ready. I’m getting kinda excited.”
We talked about a few other things, like school, speech, and his friends, and then he got up off the couch, blew his nose, and went to take a shower. He asked if I’d make something to eat. Never mind that it was now 12:30 a.m. We were the only two beings at home and a hamburger and fried potatoes sounded just about right. My husband was out of town and the other three boys no longer live at home.
In the next few days, things progressed rather quickly with the alarm of the COVID-19 virus. David’s directing debut of Pinocchio was canceled. The speech season was canceled, prom was canceled and his post-secondary education (as a senior in high school) was moved online. However, the threat of the virus brought two of my other boys, Joey and Marco, home, and I actually welcomed their laundry. The more family the merrier, but this still leaves Peter overseas, across the Atlantic. We’ve heard from him and he’s in good spirits, connecting with others where he is and thankful to serve.
Social distancing is one thing, but isolation is another. We need one another. Take this time to “Facetime” others and reach out in other digital ways to connect personally. This is hard, but we need each other to carry on.
I’m declaring this season a pandemic of grief and disappointment. There is so much to let go of, so much “wait and see.” It’s difficult. And I’m sorry for the disappointment and grief you’re experiencing. Weddings have to be postponed, funerals aren’t happening, family vacations, graduations, and conferences all have to be postponed or canceled. This is a process of grieving, letting go and accepting.
It’s interesting that David (he actually pointed this out) was born Oct. 4, 2001 and a little over five weeks later 9-11 happened. That too was a season of grief and tremendous loss, but somehow it didn’t seem to halt the world as COVID-19 is. I’m the first to admit that I’m the person who’s more apt to say, “Don’t worry so much. It’s fine. Everyone just settle down. Do we really have to close the doors EVERYWHERE?”
The answer is, “Yes. Yes we do, Debbie.”
I’m here with you, concerned, cautious and using common sense. We need to wash our hands faithfully and continually, but let’s also not forget to use our hands to pray and praise. Moan, groan and grieve what you’ve lost and mourn your disappointments, as David did, but thank God He is sovereign and has a plan in place to redeem all of this.
This coronavirus is real and the “what could happen” is scary and possible. So now what should you do? Do this: Take a deep breath, release slowly and then know that the answer you are looking for, His name is Jesus.
Truth is the antidote for fear and Jesus is the way, the truth and life. I’m not simply trying to give you a “here’s a verse, feel-better” sticker for your fridge. I’m telling you, from experience, that it works to trust God and believe He’s on the move.
In Lamentations 3:19-20 we read how Jeremiah’s mind is a whirlwind of emotions with all the problems he sees and is facing and his “soul is bowed down within him with sorrow.” However, he declares in Lamentations 3:21, “But this I recall and therefore have I hope with expectation.” Now he makes a turn. He says, “Okay I'm going to get something else in my mind that gives me hope with the expectation of good.”
His hope is in God. He fixes his mind on the positive, which begins to pull him out of the pit he’s in. In Lamentations 3:22-24 Jeremiah talks about the Lord's mercy, His compassion and His faithfulness. Jeremiah's positive thoughts about God brought him out of the depressed, miserable state he was in. When we think about our problems we sink lower and lower, but thoughts about the goodness, mercy kindness, and faithfulness of God give us hope. God's mercy is new every single morning, great is His faithfulness. I'm glad. I use my allotted portion every day.
God gives us the grace and strength for what we need each day, and when we feel the load is particularly heavy and so hard that we can’t handle it, I think it’s because we carry more than He’s asked us to. We’re trying to carry what He’s already taken care of or He’s in the process of taking care of and redeeming. This silly phrase, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” is not a verse in the Bible.
Because there’s more hunkering down time, take it to read the Good Book. Read a chapter like Romans 8. There are so many great promises. Romans 8:28 is one: “For we know that all things work together for good because we love God, He loves us and He has a purpose, for us, in this season.” All things are not good, yet “the good” and blessings which can come out of difficult places can be amazing. I have many stories of blessings received from challenging times, both big and small; my recovery from scoliosis back surgery, getting a DUI, missing a flight, and having the flu, losing a contest, in all these scenarios God gave me a way to know He was with me. He showed up in ways I never would have expected and blessed me.
Christ encourages us in 2 Corinthians that His grace is sufficient. The present verb “is,” means “right now,” whatever is going on, God is at work. Boy, do I need everyday grace when it comes to judging others. Judging is a recreational activity that’s so easy to do, and when you’re quarantined and watching another season of, “The Office,” you can easily feed your fleshly desires to judge at the same time. But judging is not a Holy Spirit-led activity. We scroll through social media and look at people's responses, their comments, their posts and we judge. There are graphs, articles, a link to an article and a “share” from someone else’s page, and we judge. I was getting very judgmental, and the more judgmental I got, the more irritated I became. So I stopped, deleted the graph I had posted on a thread and I prayed. I asked God to forgive me, to heal our land and heal me.
It was so clear, it was almost audible, as I heard His voice speak directly to my heart, “Debbie, have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it?” My answer was, “no.” I had talked more about the problems with humanity and the virus than I had prayed. I had complained and lamented for days. I was also jealously judging everyone else’s beautiful quarantined life on social media.
I took a shower and lamented, but I also prayed, and by allowing God’s Holy Spirit to move in and through me, everything changed. It was late evening, after I had been complaining all day long, when David actually said, “Mom, you seem different. You don’t seem angry now. What happened?”
“David,” I said. “I stopped talking and I listened. I let Jesus take over.”
I am strong-willed and a “get ‘er done” type of gal, but to be clear, this change did not come about because of my will, or greater self-effort. It was all Jesus' power.
The Lord parted the Red Sea. He healed the little girl who was sick and about to die. Lazarus was dead and He touched him and Lazarus rose up. All of these miracles happened because people had faith and because Jesus is God. And so I ask myself, “In this pandemic, am I an example of someone who only believes in God, or am I an example of someone who trusts God?” He is the same God, “yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Like the rest of the world, I’m very mindful of what not to expose myself to, but I wonder, “Am I mindful enough to not expose myself to all the talk on the news and social media posts?” Do I tune into Him every day first or the news on my phone?
Maybe now is the time to go to that address book you have with all the names and places of people you’ve written down and not yet documented onto a computer file. Sit down and write a note of encouragement to those people. Bring out the markers and the stickers and have a craft party with others you're quarantined with. David thought to write a card of encouragement to each of his cast members. Genius. Think about all that you can do, instead of all that you can't.
Hope will get you through this pandemic. Hope, I’ve always defined, is the belief that it will get better. It bears repeating, “Truth is the anecdote for fear." How timely that Proverbs 29:25 popped up on my screen today, “The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
Christ is here with us now, and He’s not leaving. He’s not surprised but what’s happening and His plan is in place for redemption. Let’s do what we can. Hope can spread rapidly, too.
This column is a regular feature on the Detroit Lakes Tribune's monthly Faith page. Debbie Griffith is a Detroit Lakes-born speaker, radio personality and writer who now resides in International Falls, Minn.