Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

My Battle with Covid

My Battle with Covid

It’s an overused metaphor, I know, but images of war seem to fit. My body is currently in conflict with a variant hellbent on doing it in. As with so many, Covid highjacked my body at some point and has gone on the offensive ever since. With the help of vaccines and a booster, my body has been fighting back. Coughs that wear one down and leave one seeking for air have been kept to a minimum (so far). Fatigue and loss of energy are where Covid has scored certain victories. But in the main, my symptoms are mild in comparison to so many others, and I can only be grateful.

In my case, Covid’s real war success has been in the injuries to relationships. Given everything I read (and who knows where the truth lies these days), I am inclined to believe the unvaccinated are a greater threat to the populace, putting the rest of us at higher risk. It is hard to understand why so many refuse to carry out their civic duty. We are, after all, in this together, and as Christians in particular, we are called to honor those in authority. Yet, for all I know, I was infected by someone who was vaccinated. What is certain is that I contracted the virus from someone who has/had Covid. And somewhere, I must have let down my guard.

I know these statements are already offensive for some, and the real tragedy is that strong feelings on both sides have led to an alienation that sometimes seems beyond repair. Reconciliation seems a bridge too far for many family members, mine included. Words are the weapons on this battlefront. Charges of “condescending” are met with “foolish;” “ignorant” are countered with “myopic.” All of these are personal and painful, and such wounds can lead to permanent scars. As in war, peace talks often break down. Covid, in the meantime, has made significant advances.

When the pandemic first laid hold of our world in early 2020, I meditated for days in Jonah 2. It seemed to be the operative text. It still is. These days feel like we are still in the belly of the whale. This divine timeout keeps extending, minimizing a return to full action. Rereading the poetry, the intestinal language in this chapter, one finds a prophet full of self beginning to become full of God. Self-determination is giving way to God-determination. Alienated from God, Jonah finally breaks the silence. His words reveal a man who, in the darkness, begins to see. In the fog of sickness and weakness, we often find, ironically, clarity.

Like Jonah, in a time of isolation one is confronted with the idols one has consciously—or unconsciously—worshipped. Slowing, I become more aware of things that have slowly taken precedence over God—what Peterson calls God-frauds. Even the things we do “for God” can take on idolatrous proportion (e.g. writing a book?). I begin to ask more probing questions like, “Am I also running from a divine summons, a call to do what everything inside says, ”Please, not me”?

Unlike Jonah, I am not in some dark, dank confinement. Seaweed is not wrapped around my head making it impossible to breathe, and ocean breakers are not crashing over me. Instead, they are colliding against a natural sea wall just below me. I am looking out, gazing over another sea, stuck on a desert island called Bonaire, and sequestered to a deck overlooking the Southern Caribbean.

Like Jonah, I was one minute full of plans and adventures, escaping to my own Tarshish. Heather and I took a time out and came to visit her sister and husband, explore the extraordinary sea life, kayak, and do an occasional hike. But my escape to sleep the first day outed me (Jonah 1:5-6). Home tests have confirmed I should be tossed into the sea. For now, we are all confined on this deck, next to the palms, hopeful no worms will find them. We are completely at the mercy of God. 5 days? 7 days? More symptoms? Less symptoms?  

As I have found in the past, God often speaks into these involuntary moments with centering words. Setbacks like pandemics often serve as advances in spirituality. As Peterson puts it in his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant“confinement turns into concentration, illusion transmits into hope, death changes to resurrection.”

At least I have my computer, some books, my wife, and my family. Oh, and T-I-M-E. And if I am especially observant, I have an extraordinary opportunity to move from a preoccupation with self to a better preoccupation. From compulsive pursuits to a slower pace—like it or not. 

Leave a Reply