I have been writing this devotional blog since the summer of 2008. I named it Spur based on Hebrews 10:24 and aimed for it to always be a message to encourage others (and myself) to greater love and good deeds. I still love the name, and as Paul David Tripp writes in his introduction to New Morning Mercies, “There is no reality, principle, observation, truth, command, encouragement, exhortation, or rebuke in this devotional that I do not desperately need myself.” I agree. Every Friday I am always preaching to myself because I desperately need it.
Another aim of this blog is to capture everyday stories I might otherwise forget. I do not think anyone is in danger of forgetting 2020, but I do want to document some nuances. Plus, it feels like a good time to go back and revisit how it all came down.
Six months ago today was my sons’ first day of virtual school. If you remember, the world fell apart the week before. On Thursday, March 12, we learned that school would move online. The boys went to school like normal on that Friday, but a portion of that day was spent learning how to use zoom. Their school planned and executed better than any I’ve heard of — in fact, a lot better than any I’ve heard of. They left for the weekend knowing to take all their belongings, and were advised to be ready for a normal school day to start Wednesday, March 18th online. In short, they missed only two days of instruction.
My husband had put a cot in his car in the beginning of March. If his hospital system had an outbreak of Covid-19, he planned to just sleep in his office. He also had never formally applied for privileges, because although he is board certified in internal medicine and critical care, his job is 100% administrative. He ended up getting hospital privileges because he’d be better at intubating than most, and we just didn’t know if there’d be a need for all hands on deck.
When we found out about virtual school, Will and I talked about the boys and I going to the beach. We have a small, two-bedroom condo in South Florida. I read a study about how sunlight made a dramatic difference in the recovery of WWI flu patients, and decided we should probably go (as an aside, vitamin D does seem to be important in protecting against the virus). If we weren’t there to bring germs home to, Will would not have to sleep in his office. If things got crazy, he could even have other doctors or providers stay at our house.
The decision to quarantine in Florida instead of at home inexplicably felt like one of the weightiest of my life. I felt like I might never see my husband again. I couldn’t keep myself from picturing him deathly sick and alone. I mean, I would’ve come back, but what if it wasn’t in time? The projections on the death toll were terrifying and he’d be in the hospital every day. I almost can’t describe how conflicted I felt about it all.
We stayed through the weekend, celebrated Sam’s 13th birthday on March 16th, and the four of us drove to Florida the next morning. We sailed through Atlanta like it was uninhabited, but soon my one eyeball was twice it’s normal size and I had to be done with my portion of the driving. Somehow for me, stress centers on my eyes. The gargantuan stye made me look almost as pitiful and stressed as I felt leaving Will that morning.
Of course once we arrived with our car full of school books, computers, a printer, toilet paper, Sam’s trumpet and non-perishable food, I felt better. The ocean breeze and swaying palms are invariably calming. Will worked crazy long hours, but we FaceTimed with him every night. Sam’s birthday balloons were still in the kitchen, and Will would show us how the giant 1 and 3 were drooping and dimpling as the days passed. My funny man said things like, “Sam, hopefully you’ll get to come home before you turn 31.” But that’s about how it felt. Time slowed to a tortoise pace. The great unknowns felt almost crushing and those balloons representing 31 instead of 13 didn’t feel as far-fetched as it should.
One morning I was trying to zoom in to Bible study. I was sitting in the parking lot, while Sam was in the car for band class. I didn’t think my mostly elderly neighbors would much appreciate him playing the trumpet in the condo, and so he hustled down to the car for band class.
The car was turned on so that Sam could have some A/C, and I sat down on one of those yellow parking block things, a few empty spaces away. I logged into zoom, and I could see my girlfriends, but I could not hear them. Perplexed I tried to figure out if they were all muted, or what. I kept gesturing that I could not hear. Finally, I realized that my phone was linked to the car, the audio of my zoom call was in there with Sam. I’d already witnessed the profound, unparalleled embarrassment of revealing you have a mother during zoom school. I had made the grave mistake of walking behind Nate’s chair and he nearly died. Now poor Sam and his entire band class were hearing my Bible study in stereo! It still cracks me up to think about.
But with all the anxiety of telling Will goodbye on March 17th, and all the logistics of doing school at the beach for three weeks, I can look back and remember the sweet memories we made. Sam and I rode bikes during “lunch” every day and I sat on our balcony and watched the sunset every night, sometimes with all three boys. We were only there a few days before the county closed the beach, but the police stopped patrolling at 5pm. Right after 5, I’d watch a group of old people rush out into the water to soak in the healing, salty waves. I read a lot of coronavirus articles, spent too much time on social media and prayed. But mostly I just sat around and thought. There was so much to ponder, and so much time to do it.
This week I was reading through Psalm 13. The structure of it is a little bit like my whole beach quarantine experience. It starts with a frantic feeling and ends with trusting calm. What do you think comes in the middle? Any ideas? Did you guess prayer? Yes, prayer comes in the middle.
Here is the full text of the Psalm:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalms 13:1-6 NIV
Are you in a season of “How long?” Or a season full of anxiety and indecision? Can you force yourself to stop and pray, asking the Lord to look upon you and answer? I don’t think we make our way back to a place of trusting and rejoicing without praying and reminding ourselves of how good the Lord has been in the past. Sometimes the peak on the other side of the valley is even higher having seen with clarity the pit.
Over two hundred years ago a biblical commentator wrote this about Psalm 13:
This song, as it were, casts up constantly lessening waves, until it becomes still as the sea when smooth as a mirror, and the only motion discernible at last is that of the joyous ripple of calm repose. (Frank Delitzsch)
Friends, I hope your weekend is a joyous ripple of calm repose!