Still Surprised by Joy

When I first started showing symptoms of the coronavirus, I didn’t think I had it. There was the sore throat, weird sinus issues, fatigue, followed by worse fatigue, then headaches. I never had a fever, so I waited over a week to get tested. It wasn’t until I lost my senses of taste and smell nearly overnight and spent four days with unbearable migraines that I thought, maybe, but still believed, nah.

I was wrong, and I tested positive for Covid-19 eleven days after symptoms appeared. I’ve been in quarantine since and will be with my husband and six children until we all test negative or at the earliest, September 21.

I’m such a great Christian. The first week of symptoms, I still did mom things—laundry, homeschooling my daughter, driving other children to school and work, my graduate school work.

Week two symptoms were worse, then the positive test came, but woo-buddy, I’m such a great Christian—a right martyr, if you will. This quarantine means Martha Stewart family time. I will probably bake a lot of cookies.

Then yesterday hit, and I was over it. OVER IT. Frustrated, exhausted, and nope. I quit. I’m done. I want to lay here in this bed and never move and pretend dogs and lizards and kids and husbands are floating in the oblivion somewhere. Leave me. Let me fade away into my misery.

Why do we do that? Why do we associate being a ‘good Christian’ with how much we can endure? Is this the point, to endure? What does the Bible say about endurance? Romans 5:3-4 says, ‘…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…’ (ESV)

Ok, but in this context, how can I endure with the coronavirus, with the burdens and responsibilities of life that don’t care if I’m sick, like paying bills or feeding a herd of children or school work?

It starts with joy. Colossians 1:11 says, ‘May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…’ (ESV). Joy isn’t going to come any other way than via direct communion with God, which, as we’ve learned, comes through thankfulness, no matter how meager. When we commune with God, we are in a posture to receive from God, in this case, power from Him for the strength to endure.

Ha! I can rest. I can rest physically on this giant pillow. I can rest emotionally, knowing I don’t have to be a super mom. I can rest mentally, doing only what I have to do, and I can rest in God spiritually, knowing I can rely on him for the provisions for all of it. Paul says, ‘…For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (I Corinthians 12:10, ESV)

I used to think this meant when I was a wuss, I would turn into Wonder Woman all of a sudden.

Maybe you will. Perhaps you are in an economic position where you can’t take off work because you don’t have a choice—missing work means no money means no food or housing. Maybe returning to work means going to the doctor for clearance when you don’t have health insurance, and paying for that means more money you didn’t have in the first place.

This virus doesn’t discriminate, but it can aid it by unfairly affecting those without the privileges I have—and even mine are limited. A prolonged quarantine or illness would be detrimental to our large family, but I’m trying not to think about the troubles of tomorrow because today has enough of its own.

I don’t have the answers for everything—if you are suffering, if you’re hurting, if you’re sick, I know hearing Give it to God is equivalent to saying, ‘“Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving [you] the things needed for the body,’ and ‘ what good is that?’ (James 2:16, ESV).

So to everyone not currently suffering, hurting, or sick, I encourage you—no, I beg you—take care of those who are. Take the time to pray, yes, but don’t forget that your faith without works is dead. Show your faith by your works.

Fill the pantries, offer the rides, pay the bills of the invalid, get the groceries, pick up the prescriptions—whatever it takes to let the world know ‘…that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35, NRSV).

Yesterday, an excellent set of friends packed up their four boys and went and picked up our grocery order and brought it to our house. As they unloaded all our food and supplies onto the porch, we stared at them while pressed against the glass door like desperate quarantined people without dignity—I just wanted to make them and myself laugh, and they did, and we did.

I had said to my friend the day before, ‘Thank you so much for doing this for us.’

She’d said, ‘You’d do it for me.’

I received so much joy from that statement because it meant she knew that about me, that I loved her. That the love I have for her means she knows that I’ve met Christ. I know this mom well. I know she is tired, I know she has four little kids and homeschooling and a lot of things going on, and none of it mattered yesterday. She has those days where one more thing will set a person off or make one go, Nope; I quit, I’m done.

Yesterday, I was one more thing.

Yet, through the strength I know she gets from God to endure, I get to share in that well, which never runs dry. Yesterday I didn’t thirst; I didn’t go hungry—physically or spiritually. The bananas and salsa she brought filled me, but even more, I was filled by the joy God provided with such a rich, selfless friendship. I haven’t always had that, so the luxury of it is new and amazing. Yesterday, the abundance of this family’s generosity and willingness to serve mine in our need was a source of joy for me, a communion with God, because I am thankful to Him for it.

My prayer is twofold today: That those who can, will, and those who need, will receive. May you find each other in humility and gratitude.

Be well, comrades.

Published by Jessica Calvert

Jessica Calvert is a fiction editor for The Black Fork Review, owner of Charm & Strange Press, wife of a weirdo, and mother of 6 minions. She holds a B.A. in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is currently an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at Ashland University. Jessica has work published in the Aurora and her mom’s refrigerator. Her chapbook of poems and short stories, Into a Dark Alley, was released in 2019.

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