If you ask me how Covid-19 has affected me personally, I feel a gaping numbness inside.
I may be a nurse and one of “those” essential workers, but the time-consuming job of covering up from head to toe like a masked robber and ramming a swab far into the nether regions of a patient’s head has been the least of my troubles.
The sword is double-edged for me. First of all, the onslaught of Covid-19 means everyone is masking up (everyone sensible enough to protect each other from the risks, that is) and my chief aid to communication is gone. Poof. Just like that.
I feel myself vaulted back into my sixteenth year when I lost my hearing, and trauma that I thought I had been healed from keeps resurfacing. I’m plagued with dreams and flashbacks from that year. God, how many times do I have to go over something before I am released from it?
In spite of the triggers, I faithfully put on my mask when I step inside the hospital to start my shift. I rummage through my purse to find a mask before going into the grocery store. Whenever I leave the house and go through my mental checklist of what I need, I always think, “Oh, don’t forget the mask!”
I long to look at people in my quiet and direct way, studying their faces as they talk. I know that my trauma is less important than keeping my neighbors and children healthy. But it is still hard.
Another way Covid-19 has affected me is a traumatic loss of a very different sort. I see people I thought of as gentle and loving vaulted into polarizing political camps. The qualities of nonviolence and suffering love that I thought were so deeply embedded into our Mennonite tradition seem to be almost nonexistent in so many of my Mennonite friends.
The way of Jesus is being replaced by the way of worldly government, money, and power. I feel lost and alone, because the things I value so highly even while living outside the Mennonite community are rapidly disappearing from inside the tight-knit community I love so much.
The loss of effective communication along with the loss of historic community has been great. Many days I wake up with sadness aching in my chest.
Today as I drove my foster child home from an appointment in Wichita, I noticed a lone bird winging over a dusty field of harvested wheat toward the tree-lined river. I thought of the verses from Isaiah:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.
Isaiah 44:3-4 (ESV)
Another verse a few chapters later:
they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.
Isaiah 49:10 (ESV)
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)
I watched the bird on her solitary flight to the river, and thought of all the other birds around the world that are also flying toward water, flying toward health and peace and vitality.
I saw myself like the bird seeking the stream, pressing wearily on in spite of this trauma-inducing pandemic to find the healing, peace, and purpose that only comes through the gentle waters of the Holy Spirit.
I am seeking the stream. I am alone, yet not alone, for my heart tells me that others are also journeying toward living water. We are connected, not by communication, heritage, or denomination, but by a common purpose–life in the Spirit.
Together we are seeking the stream.