Three weeks into COVID response and planning, I hit a wall, hard. The adrenaline rush and flurry of preparing, planning, constant emails and Zoom meetings was done, and I was weary. Then came the news that my home visit patient, someone I cared for four years, had died. She was the third that month. It was the final straw. The silence of a day without calls, an empty apartment, a sleepless night preceded by many other fitful sleeps allowed all of the emotions to come to the surface. I couldn’t work them away anymore. I was flat on the couch and all I could do was call out to God, in tears and anger, not in flowery prayers. I was angry that despite the extra time we as a country had to prepare, we didn’t, and people would die because of it. I felt abandoned by our leaders who left me, my colleagues and my learners without the PPE we needed. I was heartbroken to see healthcare professionals and hospital janitors dying for the lack of a simple mask. I was angry at the injustice again put in the spotlight with the huge disparities of black and brown people dying of this disease, and truly the disease of racism. I grieved the loss of normalcy, the separation from my patients and my learners. As I’m immunocompromised myself, I feared what could happen, felt nervous to leave the house. I mourned all of the plans that were now gone, my sense of control. And yet, God was with me. Lying on the couch, totally vulnerable, Jesus was there with me. He called me to rest in Him, to lay it all down to him. He knew loss, he experienced these same pains. I stopped, took that day as Sabbath rest and the next day, too. I regrounded in His truth, in the present. I tried to let go of what I can’t control, which is a lot right now. I rested in Him instead of fueling my anxiety on Twitter or turning off with Netflix. I’m grateful that I had some rhythms established going into this of daily gratitude and being in the word every day. I leaned more into these. Psalm 91 had been shared with me in multiple contexts, and verses 14-15 stood out anew. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him … When he calls to me I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.”
A week later, Pastor Brain Tome shared a visualization exercise of going to the place in your mind where you feel totally at peace and present. For me, that’s the beach I go to every year, a specific spot on the sand where I watched the sunrise every day. As we walked through the exercise, I could see Jesus walking up to me on the beach, imagine him sitting beside me, his arm around my shoulder, listening. This brought profound peace, and when I begin to get anxious or overwhelmed again, I try to come back to this image, this peace.
Over the next week, Holy Week, I saw the fullness of how Jesus could relate to my emotions. I saw his righteous anger on Holy Monday, his mourning over Jerusalem, the truth of “it didn’t have to be this way.” On Tuesday, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in an act of service and humility while also recognizing the separation to come. On Thursday, he ate with his friends and prayed for them and for you and me. On Friday, he called out to his father in a moment of abandonment – “Where did you go??” And on Saturday, we sat in the tension and the waiting of the not-yet, the Kingdom that is to come is not fully here. In this Holy Week, the truth of “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15) was more real to me. Jesus can handle all of my emotions and wants to. As he ate with his friends, he said to them, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. … Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16: 22-23).__ -Dr. Anna G.__