God of grace and God of mercy, if one person asks me what I did or we did to get this disease, I will lose it. They want me to deserve it. They want me to have done something to cause this for myself or my family. They want to be able to say they have been more careful than I have been or more diligent so they can lull themselves into thinking I deserve it and they don’t. God, do I deserve this? God, does my family deserve this? God, I am clinging to the many verses where you are listed as a God of mercy and grace. Of the fact that your son, Jesus Christ, came to give us grace – favor we don’t deserve. You are a God that is all about NOT giving us what we deserve. I cling to the hope and the promise that you love me and my family and want what is best for us and you will use even this for good. I cling to your word that says that while this is a broken world that has sadness and illness and fear, that you have overcome the world. I cling to your word that says in your kingdom, which has not been realized yet, that there will be no sickness or death or tears. That is what you want and I can trust that you love me and are with me in this, no matter what. In your loving embrace, Amen. (Rev. Shannon Jordan, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Decatur, Alabama)
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” Proverbs 15:13-14 (ESV)
“But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:7 (ESV)
In my experience dealing with COVID-19, the blame washes over you soon after the fear. Specifically, in my head it sounded like this: What have I done to my child? I have hurt my child! I’m a terrible mother. It’s all my fault. Why didn’t I protect him better? What have I done to our friends? I’m a terrible person! Why did I hurt them? I can never forgive myself.
If all the terrible images from television and social media were playing on a repeat loop in my mind, then this was the soundtrack to that awful film.
And when the questions from others start – Where did you get it? Who did you get it from?– that terrible soundtrack of blame plays louder and louder in my head.
The truth is that this virus is not your fault. Let me repeat that for my friends in the back. This virus is not your fault. Whether you believe it came from a bat or a wet market or a secret laboratory or is a government conspiracy (fact: it’s not), the virus itself is the only thing you should be blaming.
Do you love your family? Fiercely, I’m sure. Do you love your friends? Dearly, I’m sure. Would you do anything in your knowledge, power, or capability to protect them? I’m definitely sure on this one.
This is not your fault.
I’ve talked to many doctors over the past few weeks and even they are unsure of things right now. This virus is new and the guidance is ever changing. We are all doing the best we can.
But what about the person you got it from (if you even know). Once you are done blaming yourself, you may start to blame someone else. I want you to consider that maybe they were doing the best they could too. I want you to consider that they love their family and friends just as much as you do, and I would bet they want to protect them just as much as you do too.
Blame the virus and no one else. Blame is a rabbit hole that will lead you into darkness. Dealing with COVID-19 can be dark, and right now I want you to seek the light.
Forgive and give grace.
I wish I had a personal anecdote for you on how I forgive myself and give myself grace, but sadly I don’t. I’m HARD on myself. Deep down, I’m an anxiety ridden perfectionist who judges herself with the cruelest of scrutiny (remember, I said I’m working on myself too).
I can forgive my children all day long, every day, easy peasy lemon squeezy. Just last night, I slipped on a toy in Flynn’s room. I flew heels over head and landed on my back and slid across the room. I had broken my pinky toe on the first day of our isolation and yelled “I broke my other toe.” Blake came flying up the stairs in his N95, as Flynn knelt by my side and said, “Mommy, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay baby. We just have to clean up our toys while we’re stuck up here.” Forgiveness for that cute face was easy, even with a swollen ankle and a scraped leg.
When it comes to the virus, it needs to be that easy to forgive yourself and for those who may have exposed you. I doubt anyone you know would willingly expose you to the virus. It’s hard, but we need to forgive others and we especially need to forgive ourselves.
One of the Bible readings today is about Joseph forgiving his brothers. It is one of my favorite Bible stories because if Joseph can forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery, we need to let go of any blame surrounding this virus except to blame the virus itself. This is the virus’s fault, not yours. It’s not even the fault of the person in the grocery story who wasn’t wearing a mask. Concentrate on forgiveness today, and remember that you are doing the best that you can. Let’s give that grace to ourselves and to others, and believe they are doing the best they can too.
Tips from a weary mama:
Create a Coronavirus safety plan and stick to it. Set your boundaries and don’t cross them. Discuss your plan and your boundaries as a family. Make them mandatory and non-negotiable. This will look different for everyone. If you stick to your plan, then if something does happen, you’ll know you did everything you could to prevent infection.
Try to find a way to rephrase the question, “Who did you get it from?” or “Who gave it to you?” Those are loaded questions that will send you or the positive person you’re talking to down a rabbit hole of blame. You can ask those questions (in a kinder form) because you may need to know the answer for contact tracing, but make sure you lead with the more important questions like, “How are you?” or “Are you holding up okay?” or “What can I help you with or do for you?” Try to refrain from saying, “So-and-so gave it to me.” That starts the gossip and assumption train and we don’t want to jump aboard that rickety old thing.
Sometimes it’s easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself. Think about someone that you need to forgive. Write out the steps you need to take to offer them your forgiveness. It can be as simple as just deciding you want to forgive them. Or you may need a plan of action that includes bible study, reading a book about forgiveness, writing a letter you will never send, and then releasing a balloon to release them from that grudge. Now turn the tables to yourself. If you are blaming yourself for Coronavirus in any way, take these same steps to forgive yourself.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have been forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
Today I related the readings to my devotional. Yesterday I did not. Some days I like doing it one way and on other days, I may feel called to do it the another way. These are the raw emotions that were on my heart in relative order from the date of finding out our loved one was positive until where we are now. The readings and verses are some that people provided to me and others were verses that I read and in which I found comfort.