The past weeks have been extraordinary and, by extraordinary I mean a singular time we hope never to repeat.
It’s not just the number of cases and COVID-19 deaths. There are the lost jobs, the missed classes, the canceled plans.
There is the loneliness and frustration. It has not been easy.
My brother-in-law had open-heart surgery. A deteriorated valve and clogged arteries couldn’t have cared less about a lockdown; they had their own deadline.
If John was going to see the end of the pandemic, he was going to have to have his chest spread and his heart repaired in the middle of it.
It wasn’t just the risk, it was the context. He went into the darkness and came out of it alone. My sister could only drop him off outside the hospital and wonder when, and if, he’d walk back out.
She couldn’t be in the waiting room during surgery, at his bedside in recovery, or help him with his first uncertain post-op steps.
It turned out well. He will carry the scar of that incision, and she the memory of that helpless separation, but when they look back to their experience of the COVID crisis, they will always see the blessing of his extended life.
Telling this story, I am drawn to another. Jacob was the grandson of the great patriarch Abraham. He colluded with his mother to trick his father Isaac and steal his brother’s birthright. Esau swore a lethal vengeance.
Jacob fled in fear. During his exile, there is a night in which Jacob wrestles with a man. They fought until dawn, when the stranger struck Jacob’s hip and dislocated it.
Jacob still refused to submit until the stranger agreed to bless him. The stranger changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and with it, changed his life.
I’m not big on conspiracy theories, especially if the suspect is divine. I don’t believe that the coronavirus was intended to punish or to teach us lesson.
That said, I do believe that there is something to be found in our suffering. It may not be a healed heart or a new name, but somewhere in the pain, there is a grace just waiting for our embrace.
It is an exceptional time, like nothing we’ve seen before. It would be a pity to come out on the other side with nothing to show.
So, while it may be odd to ask, how has this blessed you?