“The new National Geographic is here” my husband announced as he brought in the mail. “Oooooo. Mysteries of a Virus: They Kill Us by the Millions. But without them, life is impossible”, he said reading the front cover title.
“That’s not very nice,” my 3 ½ year old said indignantly from the other room, always hearing everything. “But we’re okay, because we’re just here in this yellow house and no one comes in but us … and sometimes Giggi and Pops and Big Poppy and GM.”
My daughter is right: it is just us here in this yellow house on the corner. Yet, I’m sorry to admit: these sturdy four yellow walls won’t necessarily keep that killer virus out. For just a few hours after my daughter’s declaration, our phones lit up with the notification that we’ve been dreading: we’ve been exposed to that virus. Someone we had close contact with tested positive for COVID-19.
We’ve thankfully been able to avoid official exposure for nearly a year. We are lucky and privileged and fortunate to not have jobs that put us at risk — we pray for our brave frontline workers and all those who must interact with the public on a regular basis. Yet, it hasn’t meant that we have been immune to COVID scares and tests.
Here are our current COVID test stats:
- 3-year-old: 0 tests (Thank you, Jesus!)
- Husband: 1 test (a spring cough); Result: negative
- Me: 2 tests: (a summer cough and pre-surgery protocol); Result: negative
- 14-month-old: 4 tests …
That’s right, my 14-month-old son has had 4 COVID tests. Actually, he’s had 5 if you count the one time he had a rapid test and a PCR test at the same time. 5 extra long swab sticks shoved up each nostril in his cute button nose. This poor sweet boy.
My son has spent the majority of his life within the four walls of this yellow house. He’s only really been inside 3 other places: his grandparents’ houses and his playroom at daycare. We know that both of these pose potential – but necessary – risks for work and family. Which means that 4 days a week, we send our kids to our loving daycare with a prayer and the knowledge that our wonderful daycare strictly follows all protocols. Yet the baby room at any childcare facility brings the most risk. For, babies cannot wear masks; they cannot help but touch each other; and they cannot help but pass their little baby germs back and forth. Which is precisely the reason for my son’s 4 (no, 5) tests.
- In late October, our son (and thus our daughter) was sent home with a slight fever that eventually rose to 104°F. Our pediatrician ordered a COVID test. Result: Negative for COVID, Positive for unknown childhood illness.
- In late November, our son (and thus our daughter) was sent home with a slight fever. As a seasoned Mom of 2, I knew this one was an ear infection. BUT in order to have the pediatrician look into my little boy’s ears and prescribe antibiotics, we first had to have a tele-med visit, then a COVID test, then a result, and only then an in-office visit. 3 days later the results came in: Negative for COVID, Positive for Ear Infection.
- Two weeks ago Wednesday, our son (and thus our daughter) was sent home with a runny nose and a cough. It was probably a cold, but we understood the need for caution. Once again, we scheduled our tele-med visit and a COVID test. Result: Negative for COVID, Positive for probable common cold. We all planned to go back to work and school on Monday.
- On Sunday, I hung up the phone from a heartbreaking pastoral situation. And since the first rule of COVID-tide is that you can never catch a break, it was at this very moment that my phone lit up with a notification. THE notification. The notification we’d been dreading since this all began. Daycare notified us: A student in the school tested positive for COVID-19. You will receive a separate email if your child is considered in close contact. 2 minutes later, our separate email arrived: A child in the infant room tested positive and was last in school on Friday. We held our breath: our kids hadn’t been there since Wednesday (thank you common cold). Could we be in the clear? 1 hour later the answer came: The child was in attendance all week. “Simon is considered exposed”
“He is considered exposed.” That’s quite a word, isn’t it? Exposed. Expose. Exposure.
In COVID-tide, we have a whole new lexicon of words: Exposure. Close contact. Quarantine. Test. Positive. Negative. Social distance. Flatten the curve. Frontline workers. PPE. Rapid Test. PCR Test. Contact tracing. Contactless delivery. WFH (work from home). Zoom. Virtual worship. Temperature check. No fever, coughing, or shortness of breath? Vaccine. Mask-es. Han-i-tizer (the last two as pronounced by our 3-year-old). All of these words meant something different just a year ago. Negative used to be bad. Positive used to be good. Mask-es were for Halloween. Zoom was how my toddlers run.
But exposure? Well, that’s always been quite a word. A word with dual meanings. For example, it’s good for someone to expose you to a new culture or subject, but it’s not good for someone to expose you (eek!). It’s good to get exposure for your work, but it’s never ever a good thing to expose yourself (double eek!). In 2020/2021, we now know it’s just never ever good to “be considered exposed.” Triple Eek!
Yet, I wonder if COVID-19 has done more than just expose us to a killer virus. What has it exposed in us? For the crisis has peeled back layers in ourselves, in our relationships, in our communities, and in our country.
Nationally, it’s exposed a deeply divided nation that almost feels like its tearing at the seams. And yet, it’s also exposed the ways that we have come together to save lives, to stand up for what’s right, and to preserve the “unalienable rights” of “Life Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 1776). Socially, it’s exposed how racism has deep roots in nearly every place in our culture. And yet, it’s also exposed a people willing to stand up and say: Black Lives Matter to us all. Religiously, its exposed the church’s struggles with technology and modern relatability. And yet, it’s also exposed how God’s work is being done every day through the faith and strength of the body of Christ – caring, praying, feeding, calling, cooking, serving, zooming, Facebooking…. Relationally, its exposed the frailty of human connection as we’ve been too close to some and too far from others. And yet, it’s also exposed which relationships build up and which relationships tear down. Personally, the crisis has exposed our deepest fears and emotions. And yet, it’s also exposed our ability to keep on going and going and going.
The Apostle Paul tells us in that in all these things, exposure is God’s light filter, if we have eyes enough to see it. Paul encourages us to “live as children of the light … for everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light” (Eph. 5:8,13-14). Therefore, whatever this crisis has exposed in us (good or bad), may it make visible God’s light in us.
What has the crises of this last year exposed in you?
Personally, the crisis has exposed emotions that used to hide deep down within me, but now reside right at the surface. For while I’m more apt to break down in tears, I’m also more apt to be vulnerable and open. For while I’m more apt to lose my temper, I’m also more apt to forgive. For while I’m more apt to lose my filter, I’m also more apt to be direct and honest. For while I’m more apt to feel rage at larger things, I’m also more apt to feel joy and gratitude for the smaller things. For while I’m more exhausted than I ever thought possible, I’m also more resilient than I ever thought possible.
In just these last two weeks in quarantine with my family, all these feelings have bubbled to the surface. There’s been laughing and yelling and joy and frustration and everything in between. Yet it has all been holy. For in the midst of tantrums and cabin fever and a giant mess of a house, I built a snowman with my daughter; I read my son’s favorite book to him over and over and over; I shared special takeout dinner with my husband from our favorite restaurant; and I even had the honor of praying for a beloved church member over the phone as he made his journey to heaven to be with God. The last year has exposed this in me: just when I think I can’t handle any more, it turns out I can.
Just when life actually gives us more than we can handle, we find that God helps us handle it. Sometimes, God helps us move forward with a good cry, a shout of rage, a cry for help, a long-sought-after nap, or a holy moment. No matter how you have gotten through each day of this past year, I know and trust and promise you this: God has helped you handle each and every day. God has helped you handle it, even when each day has brought both joy and sorrow, trials and triumphs, anger and love, exposure and exposed.
After our first few days in Quarantine, a friend texted me and asked how it was going, I replied: “Oh we’re just great around here. The 3-year-old bit me at dinner and the 1-year-old dove into the bathtub fully clothed.” It was a scene. Yet just this morning in that same bathroom, my daughter and I stood side by side, holding our brushes as microphones and hugging each other tightly, while we belted out the lyrics to “Some Things Never Change” from Frozen 2:
“Some things stay the same
Though the future remains unknown
May our good luck last
May our past be past
Time’s moving fast, it’s true
Some things never change
And I’m holding on tight to you”
So, we may not be safe from the threat of that killer virus here in this yellow house on the corner, but we will always be exposed to love, joy, silliness, forgiveness, and the arms of our God holding on tight to us.
We finally received word of that 4th (no, 5th) test: Negative for COVID, Positive for a sigh of relief. And so “May our good luck last, may our tests be past, time’s moving slow it’s true, when all things are exposed, God’s holding on tight to you.”