Dear Lord I come to you tonight with a heavy heart. I am hurting, sad, confused and scared. In a time of racial unrest, a global pandemic, financial and employment uncertainty, and political instability I need to feel your presence more than ever. I pray that amidst all of the chaos that you can give me a sense of peace, hope and joy that only you can provide. Even though our days are dark and weary I pray that you show us a way to shine your light even brighter. I ask that you allow us to process the news from the press with a Godly perspective that would be pleasing to you. I pray that as we lay awake at night worrying about test results, exposures, sickness and all the other worries of this earthly life that you will keep us focused on your word and our eternal life. Help us help those that are hurting or sick by providing words of comfort, knowledge and peace by sharing your Word. Dear Lord provide me the strength to fight anxiety, fear, stress and discontent. Help me pour myself into your word for the truth and the light. As we move forward in the days ahead give us a comfort that only you can give and may we be reminded to share your love with all of those that cross our path. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen (Kale Dement, Decatur, Alabama)
Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16;
Bible Verses for the Day:
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
“As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” Romans 10:11 (NIV)
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body….” Philippians 1:20 (NIV)
It was midday on Memorial Day when I started making my contact tracing calls. I should have been eating a fun start-of-summer lunch with my kids outside on our patio. I should have been watching them splash around in that cheap inflatable aboveground pool I bought them. I should have been holding up 4x4s so Blake could finish the playset we were building. But I wasn’t. Instead I was making a list on scrap of paper with a discarded pencil, trying to remember everyone I’d been in contact with since I last had contact with my loved one who had just called to tell us of their positive diagnosis. Blake was inside on the phone trying to find a testing facility so that our family could be tested.
If anyone had been sitting with me under that tattered khaki patio umbrella that day, the shame would have been clearly evident in my sunken shoulders, my head bowed, my tightened lips, my inability to look anywhere but the ground, and the shaking of my legs. That, my friends, is what shame looks like when it’s worn by a scared mother, a scared wife, a scared family member, a scared friend, when she believes that she may have put people she loves dearly in grave danger and she’s embarrassed of her carelessness.
I had to take a lot of deep breaths just to keep dialing and texting. I had to force myself to think rational thoughts instead of allowing myself to get sucked into the self-talk black hole of “Shame on you. You can’t even protect your own family. You are a terrible mother. You should be ashamed.” I had to purposefully think to keep my eyes open, because I didn’t want to look at anyone, even though I was in the backyard alone.
Shame is heavy. Whoa, girl, it’s heavy. It’s heavy enough to sink your feet into the ground and immobilize you. It’s heavy enough to glue you to your bed for hours and days. And it will rot in your brain and keep you from being the light and the good in this world.
Our COVID positive loved one was one of the first people I’d known to be diagnosed. We’d soon follow her to be some of the first people any of our friends and associates had known to be diagnosed. Our positives made the pandemic real to many people we knew, but it also put a label on us.
“Did you hear the Stewarts were positive?”
“Did you hear they exposed so-and-so?”
These were the made up conversations that were running through my mind. First and foremost, I was worried for my children, my family, and myself, but I was also worried about what people thought of us. I was worried that people would blame us. I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I didn’t do enough. I was ashamed that I let my guard down. I was ashamed that I put people I loved in harm’s way. I was ashamed for being a terrible mother. The shaming self-talk sent me spiraling into dark, dark places.
Finally tired of watching me talk down to the woman he loved, Blake demanded the answers to the following questions: Did you eat a bat in a wet market in China? (No.) Did you then eat that possum thing for dessert after you ate that bat while you were in that wet market in China? (No, I didn’t eat a pangolin.) Do you work in a secret laboratory and did you make this virus as a biological weapon of destruction? (No.) Did you take our kids to a chicken pox party for Coronavirus? (No.)
His questions were ridiculous but so were my thoughts. None of this was my fault, so why was I ashamed? And if you test positive, it won’t be your fault either, and you will have no reason to be ashamed. (Unless, of course, you can answer yes to Blake’s stupid questions, then shame on you.)
Are you ashamed when your child gets strep throat? Are you ashamed to take a flu test? Are you ashamed when your husband gets shingles? Of course not! Why are you so ashamed of this? It’s a disease. You didn’t cause it. You didn’t ask to get it. It just happened. There is nothing to be ashamed about.
One of my biggest fears is that Flynn will be shamed for having COVID, even after he has recovered. I worry that someone will call him the COVID kid or say that he has cooties. Just today I responded to someone on social media who called COVID a “stupid person disease,” adding to the shame that if you test positive, you weren’t smart enough to avoid it. (Obviously that’s not true.) When I think about the shame and the stigma about testing positive for Coronavirus, I can’t help but think about lepers in the Bible. And let me stop right here and be VERY CLEAR: COVID is NOT leprosy.
In Biblical times, however, leprosy was feared because it was highly contagious and there was no known cure. There was an emotional response and even terror associated with contracting leprosy. Lepers were shamed and even banished from their cities. Many families lost loved ones, either to death or to isolation. Again, for those in the back, COVID is not leprosy, but going through this pandemic, I can’t help but feel compassion for those affected by leprosy in the Bible.
Three of the gospels tell of Jesus healing a leper. There are numerous stories of Jesus healing the sick throughout all four of the gospels. It would be wrong of me to tell you that Jesus will heal you of COVID. I can’t make that promise to you. But I CAN tell you that Jesus will heal your shame and He will banish it from your heart. Believe me on that one.
Love conquers shame. Unconditional love for yourself, as God loves you, and unconditional love for that friend or family member who is brave enough to call you and tell you the bad news, will conquer the shame and stigma that surrounds this novel disease. Shame disappears in community. Be kind and compassionate to your fellow human, especially right now, and support them with community. Help them banish their shame through your love and support.
If you need to hear me say it again: This is not your fault. It’s not. You didn’t do this. And right now, right this very minute, I want you to release your shame. Give it up to God and let Jesus banish your shame forever. You may survive this disease, but you will not BE this disease. Got it? Good. Now, no more shameful self-talk.
Tips from a weary mama:
If someone calls you to tell you they are positive, no matter how shocking it is, please start by telling that person that you love them and you appreciate their bravery. Sitting on the other side of the situation, under that tattered patio umbrella, too ashamed to move, I have learned to lead with love and support. Trust me, the person who called you is feeling fear, grief, anger, sadness, loneliness, and shame. They just mustered all the bravery in their scared bones to call you. He or she is likely already shaming themselves. Reduce that weight with your compassion.
Have you felt ashamed of your diagnosis? Have you felt afraid to talk to anyone about it? What does carrying that shame do to you physically? Do you hunch over or avert your eyes? Write a prayer and give that shame over to Jesus. Nobody needs to carry that weight.
Dear Lord, There is no way to fathom how much love you have for us. As a mother I know that I love my children and each of them are my favorites, but that does nothing to compare to how much you love each of us. You always want what is best and to give us the desires of our heart. Sometimes when that doesn’t happen we can become scared or angry or sad. But those things aren’t of you or from you. That is when you are there holding us closer and giving us strength and courage to carry on. You are the great protector and the one for whom my soul sings. Thank you for providing me with the rainbow after the storm and showing me how real your love is even when I have doubts. Thank you for helping me to be better every day. Be with those who are sick and in need. Hold them closer and give them strength. Let my light shine so that others may see a glimpse of you in me. In Jesus name, Amen. (Suzanne Thompson, Decatur, Alabama)