Maybe this year, more than any other, there is a weight of gratitude in my soul that is so heavy, it feels like it could drag me to the deepest part of the love of Christ.
What a year it has been. In some ways, I feel like I’ve lost an entire year of life.
My first day of active symptoms for presumed Covid-19 was March 23. In the months that have followed, I’ve watched so many around me fall ill and heal, test positive without symptoms, endure and heal from this strange virus, but that has not been the case for me. My doctors are presuming I am one of the thousands who have “Long Covid.” It’s a version of this virus that does not leave after two weeks or even two months. Instead, it leaves those of us who were running 5-6 miles a day, unable to walk to the mailbox without having to lay down afterward. It causes intense fatigue, heart complications, neurological issues, and eye problems, just to name a few of the symptoms.
This time last year, I didn’t even have a primary care doctor. Now I see a hematologist, two cardiologists, a primary care physician, a holistic consultation team, and a Long Covid specialist in San Antonio. 5 months after infection I did a stress test, and given my illness, they expected I would only be able to last around 10-12 minutes on the treadmill. After 30 seconds my blood pressure was in the danger zone and after 2 minutes I had to stop the test altogether. I am on medication for Fibromyalgia (to manage the nerve pain), I’m on beta-blockers, I have an at-home ECG device, a breathing treatment, multiple inhalers, and, of course, my staple oximeter. I spend most of my days in bed.
It took me a few months to accept this new reality; to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer able to do the things I normally would do. I was going to have to step back from the places that have so often given me a purpose: friends, work, ministry, writing. I was going to have to put some weight in the theory that my worth is not contingent on anything I produce. Because Long Covid Fabs literally cannot produce.
And before I tell you the happy ending to this story, let me be clear – God calls none of this good. Do not be deceived. There are forces at work in this broken world besides Him. And God’s sovereignty, His authority, is so so different from His endorsement. He does not approve of the shit that goes down around us. He loathes our pain. He grieves. He rages and wails.
AND (not but) – He works all things for good. Our lives are shredded and left in scraps, and our Father, His heart breaking at our pain, reaches down and collects those scraps and sows them into glory. He snatches those threads discarded by our enemy and knits them into a magnificent design. What our enemy means for evil, our God steals and transforms. Every empty cavern left vacant by loss, He floods with good. In the freshly dug dirt of every carved out grave, He plants new life.
I lost a healthy year. That is true and tragic. AND something glorious was left in the wake of the loss. As is the way with this Gospel of ours, death inevitably gives way to life.
This year, more than any other I feel that truth. God has worked in ways that are truly beyond what I could dream or imagine. He has shown me a purpose in my design that goes beyond productivity. He has reminded me of my preciousness – that is not formed or determined by how I spend my time; a worth that can neither be added to nor reduced. He has shown me the face of restoration, and all I can tell you my dear friends is that it is better than this anemic version we have been told to settle for.
For those who sit in brokenness, in despair, in failure and fear – know this – He is not finished.
There is a story of this year – a story of loss and limits. And it is the same story as the one of gratitude and praise. Loss and limits were NEVER the enemies of gratitude. It is only America, only the Western Church that has told you that grief and gratitude are on opposite sides of the scale. No, they are ever-present companions. They take turns declaring the worth of the gifts we are given in this short life and they both sing the same song of thankfulness. Grief is honoring what we’ve lost. Its wail declares something was precious to us. It IS the gratitude for what we have lost. And gratitude, in turn, is the honoring of what we currently have; every gift made more precious because our grief has taught us each gift is fragile and fleeting.
Grieve well, dear hearts, and you will find your gratitude.